Last night in the US

Today has been a big and beautiful day.

I had breakfast at the hotel at a table by the window where I could soak up the morning sunlight. I had avocado and poached eggs on toast with a black coffee. It was good.

Towards the end of breakfast I was joined by one of the mentors, and we had a good chat about life and study and the future. I feel like everyone on this trip has become part of my family (yes… I know it’s a cliché), and I am going to miss everybody so much when we inevitably have to say goodbye and fly back to our respective corners of Australia.

After breakfast I caught an Uber with the other mentor and one of the other Scholars to Harvard, and killed a bit of time in Urban Outfitters until it was time for my appointment (that shop will be the death of me I swear, so much good fashion).

I was lucky enough to be invited to attend a seminar by Dr Safiya Umoja Noble about her book Algorithms of Oppression: How Search Engines Reinforce Racism. It was a fascinating talk, and the members of the audience had some very interesting questions which yielded very interesting answers.

In the afternoon I ducked across to MIT for a meeting with an academic administrator there, and found out a bit more about their HASTS program (History / Anthropology / Science, Technology and Society). Unfortunately she couldn’t answer all of my questions (like if I could squish science fiction in there somewhere under the anthropology or society banners), so I will have to email some of the professors from the department to find out.

By 4pm I was back at Harvard for a panel discussion that followed on from the seminar earlier in the day, entitled ‘Before Algorithms: A History of Bias and Oppression in Computing’. Again, fascinating, interesting.

Then it was back to the Science Center (where I spent most of my day yesterday) to attend a meeting of the Anthropology of Science working group which I had been invited to. One of the PhD students presented his research and received feedback from his peers (from other disciplines), a practice which is fairly common at Harvard, apparently. And if there’s no working group to suit your specific needs, you can just make one!

And then I finally caught up with the other Scholars for dinner. We went to the most delicious Mexican restaurant. It was the first time on the trip that I ate all of my food. It was fab (Border Café, if you ever end up in Cambridge, Massachusetts).

I finished up the day by packing my suitcase ready to fly out tomorrow, and am now lying in this super comfy hotel bed trying not to fall asleep while I type!

Harvard is working its way into my heart, I think. I really like the History of Science course, and think I could tailor it to my research interests fairly easily. I like Cambridge—there are so many trees and parks and the river is gorgeous and the sky is bright and clear. AND. AND. I FOUND GOOD COFFEE.

And the academics here are amazing, and so lovely and welcoming. I have really enjoyed my time here and am sad to be moving on.

I think, after a year or two, I may just have to apply to study here.

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The view from the fourth floor of the Wexner building at the Kennedy School, Harvard

Today was a good day

I had a bunch of meetings at Harvard today, and all of them were fantastic. I didn’t really expect Harvard to be a good fit for me, but I am being very pleasantly surprised.

I began the day with breakfast at Tatte café with my current roomie (hi Faith!), then went to a meeting at the English department. The lady I spoke with was so lovely, and we had a good chat about the program and life in general. Like all of the people I met today, I hope we can stay in touch once this tour is over.

I spent the afternoon at the Science Centre, meeting with academics and program coordinators and current students. All of them were wonderful, and all of our conversations were stimulating, energizing, and inspiring. Professor Sophia Roosth even gave me a copy of her book! Our research interests are quite similar so I’m looking forward to reading it when I get home after these hectic few weeks.

The cold is still going strong but I’m continuing regardless. Harvard and surrounds are feeling like they could be home for a while, maybe. Stanford now has serious competition for top spot on my list!

I’m getting regular E30 and puppy dog updates from my friends at home, and I’m missing both car and doggo (…and friends) terribly. I’m still absolutely loving my edventure, but I’m looking forward to coming home and seeing all my family and friends and companion animals and inanimate objects.

In the meantime, I keep acquiring books (whoops!) which will need to be posted home so that my suitcase isn’t over-weight. Ahh the trials of being a bookworm.

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How gorgeous is this tree! It lives in a sunken garden bed which is hidden from view until you go right up to the fence. What a treat to see this in the middle of the lawn!

It has been a day

Well, it seems I have a cold. I am not feeling very well and the fatigue is building again.

But I am still enjoying Boston. The weather is lovely at the moment—the air is brisk and there’s a low fog hanging over the city. The buildings here are beautiful. Some of them are clad in shingles and the neat rows remind me of the weatherboard houses in Vic Park back home. It’s nice.

We had a lunch at HUNAP (Harvard University Native American Program) today, where we heard about the services available to Indigenous students at Harvard and some of the courses taught there as well. Unfortunately I had to leave halfway through to have a lie down, but it was definitely still worth attending.

In the afternoon I stopped by the Coop (Harvard’s merch store—everybody here calls it the coop [like chicken coop] rather than co-op [like co-operative]) and then bounced around four or five different shops in search of new shoelaces for my boots. I had success just in time to jump on the shuttle back to the hotel!

The rest of the afternoon/evening was spent napping. I am taking a brief break from rest to write this blog post and do some admin tasks before my full day of meetings tomorrow. I might stop by the chemist in the morning for some cold and flu tablets to make my day more bearable.

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A nice view from my Uber this morning

Our Systems and Theirs

Today we attended a symposium entitled Our Systems and Theirs: Indigenous Knowledge, Racial Identity, and Higher Education hosted at Harvard. We were joined by some Native American and Canadian students to discuss our identities and how we can exist as indigenous peoples in traditionally Western/European higher education institutions.

It was a wonderful day, honestly. I loved hearing everybody’s stories and making some new friends. One particularly bookish member of the Canadian party has promised to visit Perth one day, and I think I will have to return the favour! Perhaps in the meantime we can send each other book recommendations every now and then.

After the symposium a couple of the other Scholars and I found the cutest little basement café, where we had some delicious tea and soup and killed some time before the group dinner in the evening. We also took a wander through the Harvard Book Store and I fell in love with the place. It’s massive, and has an amazing selection of both new and used books. Pictured below is one that I picked up which I have heard many good things about—and which won both Hugo and Nebula awards. I’m excited to read it!

Dinner was fab. We ate at the Harvard Faculty Club, and the food was so good. There were vegetables! Vegetables!!

Everyone had a great time chatting and getting to know each other better. The camaraderie continued back at the hotel, with some Scholars playing a game or two of pool, and others of us just sitting around and continuing our dinner conversations.

Tomorrow we have a group lunch, but I’m going to head into Harvard early with my roomie for some breakfast and a wander around campus since I will miss the tour on Thursday (I’m visiting MIT!). There are two other bookshops I’ve been told are worth checking out, one of which is called Raven Books (my fave bookshop back home is Crow Books, so obviously I have to drop in).

But now, heat pack and bed. Goodnight!

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Binti by Nnedi Okorafor has won both Hugo and Nebula awards, and it’s only 90 pages long!

Hello Massachusetts!

We have arrived in Boston (well, Cambridge, technically).

We left our New York accommodation at 8.30 this morning to avoid the complication of trying to navigate through the New York Marathon, and then had three hours to kill at the airport. Some of the Scholars found little nooks to nap in, while others amused themselves with comparing terrible coffees with worse ones.

I found a bunch of magazines with AI features and accidentally bought them. And also one on Mars (as research for the short story I’m writing).

We had dinner at a little Japanese restaurant—which was delicious—and then came back to our hotel for a debrief and a chat about the week to come.

Boston (Cambridge) is so pretty. It’s nice to be under the open sky again and surrounded by trees. And I’m looking forward to my Harvard meetings; I’ve also been invited to a seminar discussing how search engines reinforce racism. It should be interesting!

On Thursday I’m going to sneaky sneak over to MIT for a meeting about a super cool PhD program which mashes together History / Anthropology / Science, Technology and Society. Excitement!

Oh, and the fatigue is starting to subside. Hooray!

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Trees!! I am happy.

Last day in New York

Today we attended the Ivy Native Council Fall Summit, which featured presentations and workshops on the theme of Expansion, Intervention, Refusal: Representing Indigeneity through Art in New York City.

I left at lunch time due to fatigue, but prior to that I got to chat with some lovely Indigenous students from all over the US about our experiences and our homes.

One student from Arizona showed me pictures of her home town—the landscape was gorgeous. The colours reminded me of Western Australia, but the topography was completely different. She showed me a picture of a cedar tree and the trunk looked very much like that of a bottlebrush, though the structure of the branches and leaves was very different.

I napped in the afternoon, and then a group of us went out to a Japanese restaurant a couple of blocks away for dinner. The food was delicious and made me miss all the amazing little Japanese places in Perth. I’m keen for Hakata Gensuke ramen when I get home!

Tomorrow morning we’re taking a short flight to Boston. It looks like it’ll be a busy week at Harvard but I’m hoping to cancel or reschedule a couple of my meetings so I don’t burn out.

I’m very glad I made it to Central Park yesterday. It’s actually made it easier to notice and appreciate what little greenery is scattered around the city.

Thanks, New York, and see you again.

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The opening presentation at the Ivy Native Council Fall Summit

I made it to Central Park!

Today was another bad fatigue day, so I ended up cancelling my meetings and sleeping instead. In the afternoon I caught an Uber to Central Park and spent a couple of hours there wandering around.

It was nice to be surrounded by nature, though even there the sounds of the city permeate.

I found a bench inscribed: “Shay’s bench—she taught us a masterclass in how to lead a life” and sat on it for a while. From there I could see people rowing on the lake, and hear their laughter through the trees.

My favourite part of the day was walking through the Ramble, probably the most natural-feeling area of the park (even though the trees are fenced off and the paths are all bitumen). According to the signage at the entrance it’s one of the best places for bird-watching in the United States. I saw a cardinal finch and got very excited! And promptly forgot to take a picture of it.

Fun fact: Perth’s Kings Park is bigger than Central Park, at 400.6 ha vs Central Park’s 315 ha. Take that, America.

After resting on Shay’s Bench I went in search of Bethesda Fountain. I did find it, but from the other side of the lake. One of the other Scholars and I stood on opposite shores and waved.

Then it was back in an Uber and to the accommodation to rest. Later, one of the other Scholars shaved my undercut for me (it was getting long and looking a bit weird). The evening has been slow and lazy. I have binged a lot of the Chilling Adventures of Sabrina on Netflix.

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View of the city skyline from a bridge in Central Park

Fatigue strikes again

I had a lazy day today. I had hoped to go across to Brooklyn and look around, but my fatigue was bad so I mostly just rested.

I had breakfast with one of the other Scholars at a restaurant down the road. They had little pumpkins as table centrepieces for Halloween, which I still find kind of odd. So many pumpkins, so little eating of pumpkins.

After breakfast I picked up my washing from the laundromat and came back to the accommodation to rest. I went out again briefly for lunch and to investigate the Columbia book shop (it was disappointing), then came back and napped again.

I spent most of the afternoon working on a short story for the Neilma Sidney short story prize on the theme of travel. I’m nearly done with the first draft and will hopefully have it ready well before the November 19th deadline!

Tomorrow I have my last NYU and Columbia meetings, and hopefully my fatigue will be a bit more manageable so I can stop by Central Park before we have to move on to the next city. It’s a shame that I haven’t been able to do many touristy things or see much of the city, but I guess that just means I’ll have to come back! Next time I think I will spend longer here to allow for fatigue days and tourist days.

Also, I ate half a tub of Haagen Dazs ice cream. It was great.

Halloween and such

Today was a good, if exhausting, day. I met with Professor Kimon Keramidas at NYU and had a good chat about science fiction and the Masters in Experimental Humanities program, then I got to sit in on his class discussing urban spaces in science fiction. It was so good. All the students were so insightful and intelligent and I felt like the littlest fish in the biggest pond. It was great.

We had a group dinner at Mel’s Burgers just down the road in Harlem, then all hopped on the subway to wander around the city for Halloween. There was a parade on somewhere, but we couldn’t find it, so we just walked around looking at all the different costumes and chatting. It was a good evening.

I’m feeling very conflicted about this city. I’m swinging between not liking it at all, and thinking that maybe I could make it work if I found the right place to stay and a good support network. I found a bunch of dance schools today that do rhythm tap classes, which would be absolutely amazing. I might try to drop in to one of the studios tomorrow and try a class—hopefully they will let me borrow some shoes!

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Starbucks memes are real – just call me JR from now on

Perhaps it’s not so bad?

New York is growing on me, surprisingly. I’m still not a huge fan, and I still don’t think I could live here, but I will begrudgingly admit that it’s not awful.

My favourite part of this city is the subway. I love the feeling of being down beneath the surface surrounded by warm-white tiles and still air. The place we’re staying is right next to an elevated line, so I can hear the trains going by at all hours, which I find very comforting. I love the noises of the city, the windows rattling as buses idle in the street outside.

There still aren’t enough trees, though.

Today I met with a current (Australian!) student in the writing program at Columbia, and had a good chat about the program and what it’s like living and studying in New York. The course sounds amazing, honestly. So I’m going to go have a mosey around Brooklyn tomorrow to see if there’s anywhere in this vast place that could feel remotely like a home for a little while. I’m not holding my breath.

The one thing I absolutely have to do before we move on to Boston is to go to Central Park. All the other touristy things can wait until my next visit (…yes, there will probably be a next visit) but I have to see Central Park. I’m hoping Thursday will be as sunny and nice as it was today, because I have the whole day free to wander around and soak in the vibes of the urban oasis.

I also need to get to the post office some time this week and send some stuff home (I may have accidentally bought a few too many books).

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Look! some trees!