i woke up around 8am, knowing that karen would be up by 7am. the heat was already firing, i set it last night so it would go on by the time karen woke up. i saw her reading a newspaper from bed. she'd opened all the blinds in the living room, i've never had a roommate do that before. she wanted to make coffee and asked if i had a coffee maker. when i told her no, she instead improvised using a small strainer and a pickle jar. she videochatted with her boyfriend miguel back at home and gave him a tour of the boston. i said hello from my usual living room perch.
we left the house by 9:30am, where i spent some time teaching her how to open the tricky front door. typically a tour of boston would start from harvard square, where we'd take the number 1 bus passing central square and MIT, over the MIT bridge, getting off at backbay then walking to copley then to the public garden to downtown boston.
however, there were some kinks. i always like to take tourists to the boston public library, but they don't open until 1pm on sundays. in order to see it, i'd have to schedule that at the end of the tour. so for today, i'd run my tour in reverse, leaving from porter square, and taking the subway to park street first. another reason to schedule the library in the afternoon: there was a muslim travel ban protest happening at copley square at 1pm. that's not something you see everyday (although more common nowadays given the new administration's proclivity to offend moderates and liberals, of which there are a lot of in massachusetts), and i figured karen would get a kick out of it.
the weather was okay, typical january winter, with temperature in the mid to upper 30's. there was occasionally some wind which made it feel colder, especially in the shadier parts of the city, but out in the full sun it felt really nice.
i took karen to porter square via mass ave so she could see some of the local businesses. she noticed the church on the corner of roseland; i told her it's been converted into an art school. at the station she charged her card, $9, enough for a roundtrip today and then for tomorrow when she goes to the clinic for the very first time. i made sure we sat on the side of the subway car that looks out onto boston when we crossed the longfellow bridge. karen snapped a few photos with her iphone.
once we arrived at park street, i first took her to see the state house. if this was a weekday we would've been able to go inside and look around, but the state house is closed (to the public at least) on weekends. next we wandered to beacon hill to see some old houses. i like to show people the historical boot scrapers found on many of the doorsteps.
back down into boston common we went by frog pond to see the people ice skating. karen told me she knows how to skate (which i found surprising, since i don't think ice when i think of mexico), but still an amateur at best. at the granary burial ground i showed her some famous graves (paul revere, samuel adams, john hancock). then it was old city hall (now a steakhouse with a benjamin franklin statue outside) followed by the old state house.
at city hall i explained the history of ugly brutalism architecture, and how the former mayor wanted to build a new city hall by the ocean but stopped once people began protesting that it was a waste of taxpayers' money. i showed her the various flags flying outside: united states, massachusetts, boston.
we arrived at faneuil hall around 11:30am, which gave us a chance to use the bathroom. i've always wanted to see the actual meeting house. i did see it one time for myself, back when my father became a naturalized citizen and he had his ceremony here. but i couldn't remember how i got inside, and every time i've been back i could never find a visible entrance, so i just assumed it's only opened for special occasions. but emboldened on this occasion, i decided to ride the small elevator to the 2nd floor. and viola! the actual faneuil hall meeting place. as a joke, i kept referring to it as the "cradle of liberty" after karen saw a sign downstairs and asked me the definition of cradle. "a cage for a baby," i answered.
next we went to the tourist trap known as quincy market. karen said she'd been here before the last time she was in boston, as it was close to the seaport district where she was staying. earlier karen asked me if boston had any specialty food. i told her maybe lobsters and clam chowders. "oh, and of course dunkin' donuts," i added. she didn't know that dunkin' donuts started in the boston area (quincy). they even have dunkin' donuts in mexico now, so it's pretty ubiquitous, but here was where it first started.
after a quick pass-through of quincy market, we walked down to long wharf. from here you could touch the atlantic ocean through boston harbor, and see from across the water logan airport as planes come and go. it was almost noontime, the sun was out, and there was hardly any wind. it actually felt really nice, almost like a summer day, and there was hardly anyone on the wharf.
it was there that karen broke the news to me: she's actually going to be in boston until june. the only reason why she decided on my place was because she couldn't find anyplace else. her plan was to look for someplace cheaper during the first month that she's here, before moving out. she said she might consider living at my place longer if i reduce the rent. that caught me off guard. i felt like i got bait and switched. i wish she was just honest with me from the start. of course had i known she wanted to live here for the next 4 months, i wouldn't have agreed in the first place. but now it puts me in an awkward position. i want to be nice, and had i known earlier, maybe we could've come to some kind of agreement. but now i feel like i'm forced to make a difficult choice. on the one hand, our original agreement was only for a month, and i'm already set in the idea that she will only be here for february then leave. on the other hand i'm flexible and could allow her to stay longer, but all this extra baggage she presents (4 months, reduced rent, her boyfriend visiting for 2 weeks in april) makes me unwilling to be flexible.
we followed the greenway towards chinatown. karen recognized south station, as this was where she and her companions arrived on the train from new york city on her previous trip to boston. she was interested in finding out the schedule and cost for a possible future trip to montreal, so we went to the south station bus depot to get some info. greyhound has a one-way ticket to montreal for around $85 (on a weekday). from there it was a straight line down beach street to chinatown.
i treated karen to lunch at pho hoa. i decided vietnamese pho instead of cantonese dim sum because it wasn't as oily and seemed like the healthier option.
after we finished eating, we cut across boston common then the public garden to commonwealth avenue. we then headed to copley square. by then it was already close to 2pm, but the 1pm muslim ban protest only seemed to be getting started as streams of people (some carrying signs) crowded streets and sidewalks all going the direction of copley square. karen said it was inspirational to see so many people protesting the actions of presidential trump. she took photos and stopped to send them to her parents.
i wanted to show karen inside the boston public library but there were so many protesters on the dartmouth street steps of the library (copley square facing) that we went in from the side entrance on boylston street instead. this was the newly renovated section of the library, my first time seeing it from the inside. we cut through and went to the older part of the library. here i used the bathroom before we checked out a william shakespeare exhibit. i showed her the bronze plaque of the declaration of independence, and pointed out the signatures of famous bostonians like samuel adams, john adams, and john hancock. she was impressed with the library interior, but said it was similar to the montreal public library. then i showed her the reading room which really impressed her ("they don't have this in montreal," she said). the reading room windows gave us a great view of the protest happening outside. it was a weird contrast between the people quietly studying inside and the sea of people outside shouting in bullhorns protesting the muslim travel ban.
after touring the library we came back outside to copley square. from there we walked down newbury street to mass ave to catch the no.1 bus to harvard square.
due to the protest, the line for the no.1 bus was longer than usual. when the first bus came, there wasn't enough room for bus. after a long wait the 2nd bus arrived, but due to the fact that some transmit employees parked their cars in the bus lane, the bus had to park behind us, so all the people in the back of the line got on the bus first until there wasn't anymore room for us. although we could've just taken the green line from hynes convention center, i wanted to ride the no.1 bus because it was more scenic, going across the mass ave bridge and passing MIT and central square. so i decided we should walk across the mass ave bridge to MIT, then cut through MIT to kendall station and taking the red line to harvard square.
by that point karen's iphone had already ran out of battery, so i ended up taking some photos for her. we ended up touring the inside of MIT, where there was hardly any students on a sunday afternoon. when i lead a tour we usually just pass by MIT, so getting a chance to walk inside was a rarity. at the final exit to kendall square the building was locked so we couldn't pass through but we waited until somebody with an MIT pass swiped us in.
arriving at harvard square, i didn't take the time to wander around. instead we cut across harvard yard (where there were still plenty of things to see), in the direction of home.
we got back at 4:30pm. my original plan was to take karen to market basket, but we both ended up deciding that the nearby star market was good enough for her to pick up some simple grocery items. after taking her there we came back. she made a sandwich for dinner, i ate some leftover beef stew with pasta.