Arrived in Boston last night via a 6-hour long Megabus ride. Staying at a friend’s house, who kindly picked me up from the bus stop and brought me to his home 20 minutes outside of the city.
I am now stuck in a suburb of Boston because of the 14-inch snowstorm.
A little bit of background about what I’m doing in Boston in the first place (since I just realized there have little prior information about this). This semester I am participating in IHP’s Health and Community study abroad program, a unique program that takes 30-some students to four countries to take a comparative look at health in a local context. I’m anticipating it will be a crazy adventure, full of learning opportunities not only from the places we visit and the people we meet, but also from the fellow students we travel with. (After reading some of their introductory emails, it seems like most of them are already seasoned world travelers.) Our orientation was scheduled to begin…in about half an hour in Boston. After calling IHP this morning, it sounds like I won’t be the only one arriving late.
This snow must be the first in many “unexpected schedule changes” they warned us about, and not only does it launch our program with an exciting start, it gave me an opportunity to speak with my friend’s dad, who must have one of the most exciting jobs in the world.
He’s a nuclear proliferation specialist and professor at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. His job takes him out of the country 2-3 times a month, and as he describes to me his experiences in Europe, Latin America, Asia, and the Middle East, I think how fitting it is for me to begin my own world exploration by gleaning experiences from someone who has seen so much.
One theme from his narratives sticks out to me—and that’s the theme of how much our view of the world is at the mercy of our media. We see ourselves as the bringers of democracy to the Middle East, liberators who will bring stability to the region. But local media in countries such as Iraq and Afghanistan are focusing on the civilian casualties, the wailing mothers in the streets, and ongoing controversy over the true numbers of civilian casualties, there is little doubt that local media are turning public opinion against us. A similar anti-American tint has been observed to run through Indian media. On the other hand, my friend’s father tells me that you would be surprised how friendly and pro-American Iranians are on the streets of Tehran. “The lesson here,” he concludes, “is that you really have to be out there to know what it’s like.”