I dedicate this post to young professionals who are looking for a new place to live. I was in your shoes a year ago. I looked into multiple statistics comparing various western countries: fun, the cost of living, safety, disposable income, weather, taxes. You name it. I wanted to pick a place to live and to enjoy my life. I made a conscious decision and picked USA. I must say it has treated me very well. If you’re considering the US, this post is for you. It summarizes the good and the bad things I experienced in my first year in America.
HOMELESSNESS NO MORE
After defending my PhD in Canada, I flew to Boston. I would be starting a new job soon. Although I had visited America many times, I was excited to call it my new home. Home was something I really needed after two months of homelessness in Canada and Europe.
BRAZIL IN AMERICA
I managed to find an apartment in Framingham. It’s a small town located in the suburbs of Boston. Although American suburbs are boring as hell (if you’re single, bilingual, and ready to mingle), I discovered that Framingham was a Brazilian town. What a gift from the God. People here speak Portuguese, dance forró, and enjoy sertanejo music. Brazil in America? Que legal!
My first day at work gave me a good feel of the company. It was also the day when I had to deal with American bureaucracy. I went to an office to get a Social Security Number. It’s needed to be legally employed, to open banking accounts, and to deal with more bureaucracy. It took about 10 minutes to get the number. Not bad.
My work seemed like a transition between school and the actual job. I was getting a variety of trainings. Some of them were very technical, others explained the company’s culture and values. Either way, I found them useful. I got to know my colleagues at work. A lot of smart and talented people. No doubt about that.
SUPER BOWL PARTY
I got along very well with some of the colleagues. One invited me to a Super Bowl neighbors’ party. It was a very cool event. All the neighbors in the area brought food and drinks, and shared with each other. The event was very lighthearted and all the people seemed super nice. I liked the ice sculpture of the team’s logo. The point of the sculpture, though, is to drink alcohol from the luge on top of the figure. Creative.
PUERTO COCO RICO
End of November is an important time of the year for Americans. Together with their families, they celebrate Thanksgiving. For me, every day above the ground is a good day, so I celebrate. I went to Puerto Rico to hunt turkeys and coconuts. It was a great move. Massachusetts was getting colder and gloomy, whereas Puerto Rico was hot and sunny.
Job-wise, I was spending a lot of time in trainings. I was also finishing my first software project. It was both challenging and engaging. I was working hard for the whole month and didn’t take any days off during Christmas and NYE. I wanted to save the days off for the carnival in Brazil.
I was spending a lot of time playing the guitar, learning Portuguese, thinking about life, love, my career goals, travels, and my plan for America. As I am reflecting on it now, it was a super important time. It helped me to design my would-be American/International dream hehe
REUNION IN CANADA
Although I was done with PhD, I was still working on a journal publication and had a university laptop. I realized I needed to return it back. It was an opportunity to fly to Toronto and meet up with old friends. I had lived four years in Canada. On the one hand, it did feel like home. On the other hand, the border officers reminded me that if I stay in America too long, I’ll lose permanent residency in Canada.
End of January is very cold in Boston. I got a chance to go to California to San Diego. What a lovely place! Palm trees, warm weather, beautiful gardens, good looking girls, and the ocean. One of the more interesting places there was the Miramar Air Station. It is a famous military base where they shot the movie Top Gun with Tom Cruise.
I signed up for Tai Chi. It’s a martial art used for defense and relaxation. It’s not like I was stressed out, but I never took any martial art classes. It was the time to act.
One of the days that Americans celebrate in February is President’s day. I’m not an American, but I like to celebrate. I booked a flight to Washington, DC to meet Barack Obama. I was all dressed up and ready to take off. Unfortunately, due to severe weather conditions, the flight was canceled. Dammit, it was a long weekend and I would be staying in Framingham?
YOLO, MONTREAL AND PHILADELPHIA
No way! I quickly contacted my friends to come up with a plan B. What a coincidence! They told me there was a Miss Polonia pageant going on in Montreal that weekend. Without much thinking I went to the bus station and took the next bus to Montreal. The ride was pretty bad: 2 stopovers and almost 10 hours en route. The weekend was well worth it, though. Saturday, arrocha with Miss Polonia. Sunday, going to a Polish winter camp. Monday, flying to Philadelphia to see what’s cool there.
CARNAVAL IN BRAZIL
A weekend in Canada, a week in America, and then two weeks of carnival in Brazil. That’s worldwide.
RODEO IN TEXAS
I got back to the real world March 10th. It was kinda depressing to realize that there is a world outside the carnival. Nonetheless, I was looking for more adventures. A quick search revealed that there are cheap flights from Boston to Houston. Even better, they were scheduled precisely during the biggest rodeo in Texas. Lots of cowboys and cowgirls. I could not miss that event.
PRE-MOVE TO BOSTON
Working hard, looking for apartments, working on a journal publication, and learning Portuguese. It was a pretty intense month. My apartment lease would expire at the end of May. I really wanted to move to Boston. As my workplace is located 20 miles (30km) from Boston, I needed a car. Not any car, though. I needed a proper American car. The choice was clear: Ford Crown Vic Police Interceptor with a huge V8 4.6l engine.
QUEST FOR A POLICE INTERCEPTOR
The story goes like this. Peter came down from Canada. We were looking for Crown Vics on Craigslist, dealerships, and car shops. One dealership was on the hill. Although they didn’t have the car, Peter spotted a Crown Vic in the bushes in a nearby car shop. There was some dude walking around.
Peter: How much for this piece shit?
Dude: The white one? Two grand, but we can talk.
We went to the car shop. The car looked pretty awesome. It was a real Police Interceptor: lots of dings and bullet holes. In the end, the car was in a bad condition and we set the price to one grand. I would be a very happy owner of the ultimate American car. Several days later, though, the dude called me and said that the car ended up in the junkyard.
I needed a car really badly, because I had less than 20 days before moving to Boston. I wanted to buy something inexpensive, yet very American. I went to a dealership and got a 2000 Lincoln Continental. It is a huge full-size car with a V8 4.6l engine. That’s American enough. It quickly turned out that the car was a piece of shit. The transmission was leaking all the time and I took it to the service several days after the purchase.
GOING BANANAS IN THE BAHAMAS
The weather in May was nice and Massachusetts looked simply stunning in spring. It was my first time to play golf. I was playing it regularly for the whole May. The month ended with a long weekend due to Memorial day. Together with Peter and Kiki, we were looking for coconuts and bananas in the Bahamas.
Finally, I moved to downtown Boston. My parents flew from Poland to visit me. We got to travel quite a bit. First, we went to Waterloo, Canada for my convocation. It was a truly gratifying moment. I officially became a PhD, and below is the proof.
I met there with Rafael, my former colleague from the lab who also got his Masters degree. If you go to convocation, that’s how you roll.
After the convocation I traveled with my parents around Canada and the East Coast. Then, I thought to myself: it would be cool if they visit the Caribbean... I like surprising people: parents, here are your tickets to the Bahamas. Enjoy!
Despite my personal successes, my Lincoln was less successful. The car kept breaking all the time. I took it to the service four times. It was just a headache. The last time, it broke down in the middle of a highway. Then I thought: enough is enough. Fuck that shit. I’m getting a Camaro. That very same day, I went to a Chevrolet dealership, took a test drive, and bought a new shiny rocket.
AGORA EU FIQUEI DOCE
Getting a car here always takes several days. There is the registration, inspection, bureaucracy, etc. Finally, I got a call from the dealership that the Camaro is waiting for its master. Agora eu fiquei doce. I love the car. The design is very aggressive and eye catching. Behind the wheel, the car feels manly, respects the driver, and has an excellent acceleration. It is quiet and is a hell lot of fun to drive. The only drawback is bad visibility. But fuck it, it’s still a Camaro, haha.
As much as I enjoy traveling, I also enjoy meeting other travelers/adventurers. I started hosting CouchSurfers at my new place in Boston. The city attracts many people for its rich history, unique architecture, and European feel. Personally, I think it’s one of the more interesting cities in North America. It is pretty international and not as crazy-busy as New York.
MORE BRAZIL IN AMERICA
I signed up for kizomba and forró classes. The former is a slow and sensual dance from Angola. The latter is a popular Brazilian dance; it is a very close dance, yet it includes many spins and turns. As if it was not Brazilian enough, I regularly went to Brazilian bars to watch the worldcup. Oh man, watching Brazilians watching football (and partying) is a way more entertaining than watching the game.
I was hosting more and more CouchSurfers. It got crazy. Every day new people were coming and going. Within two months we hosted many dozens of people. At some point I realized it’s too much (I live with three other roommates) and had to reduce the number of guests.
In the meantime, I started taking online diving classes. As funny as it sounds, it does make sense. First, you need to learn the theory and safety guidelines. Once you pass an online exam, you’re allowed to continue the course in water. I scheduled the second part in December in Cayman Islands. The weather forecast for Christmas this year looks sunny and warm haha
ROAD-TRIP TO QUEBEC CITY
Finally, I took a break from CouchSurfing and did a road-trip to Canada. We were CouchSurfing in Quebec city. The city is OK, but definitely not as cool as Montreal. Driving there takes about 7-8h from Boston. The nice thing is that the road goes through New Hampshire and Vermont. These are sparsely populated states with no traffic on highways. It was a perfect ride to test the Camaro.
JAMAICA: HEARTS ON FIRE
The first Monday of September is celebrated as a Labor day. It’s a long weekend, but I decided to work. Why? Because: 1) flights are more expensive on long weekends, and 2) the weather was so so. Instead, we went to Jamaica the weekend after. We were doing CouchSurfing in Montego Bay. What an amazing experience! I wish I could write more, but the stuff is not really publishable. Fun? Adventures? It was better than the movie Hangover. What happens in Jamaica… never happened.
LIVE FREE OR DIE (NEW HAMPSHIRE’S MOTTO)
As a part of cultural exploration of America, we went to NASCAR; an American equivalent of Formula 1. They had a truck weekend in New Hampshire. A lot of campers, rednecks, bonfires, and tons of Bud light. As we didn’t know what we can bring in to the track, we asked. An older gentleman replied: son, this is a free country, bring whatever the fuck you want, as long as it’s not glass haha
I kept on practicing forró, kizomba, and Portuguese. I was happy to learn a Portuguese phrase that I had been misspelling for 2 years straight: simbora! (=vamos embora)
OBEYING THE RULES
I took the road test and finally got my driver’s license here. I needed it, because it’s annoying to carry my passport around whenever I want to buy alcohol. I clearly don’t look like someone under 21, but they keep asking for the stupid ID. I feel like people here are (too) rule-driven; almost robotic. It’s good for CYA and productivity, but not so good for genuine interpersonal relations.
One weekend we went with CouchSurfers to Salem. You may have heard about that place. Several hundred years ago many people were accused of witchcraft and, subsequently, killed. Nowadays, the town is mostly about shopping and kkinda scary attractions. I feel like it may be a great place for Halloween parties.
MONEY COCONUTS AND COOL ADVENTURES
I got a chance to visit Puerto Rico again. Racing through the jungle, hills, and narrow, curvy roads to see this. The biggest radio telescope in the world. As a teenager I was analyzing its data via the project SETI@home.
POCAHONTAS IN THE JUNGLE
I’m still looking forward to taking another two weeks of vacations in Brazil in November. My buddy needs to find a Pocahontas in the jungle. All sorts of nasty things hide there: malaria, yellow fever, and dengue. I went to the travel clinic in Boston to get all the required vaccinations. It was my first encounter with medical services in the US. How was it? Everything went very smoothly and without extra bureaucracy. Insurance should cover the bill. Life will show.
So here we are. This is how a year in America may look like. There is the daily job, but there are also many opportunities for fun. Although I love Europe (and most likely will eventually move back), I think, it is unlikely that I could enjoy the same lifestyle as I’m enjoying now here. I’ve read many times that the American dream is a thing of the past. For many (dozens of thousands of young professionals coming to America), the dream is far from being over. For many others, it is yet to come.
Much international love!