Summer Nostalgia: Nature and Burgers

Catherine Pushnaya 24 November 2020
Credit - Catherine Pushnaya

As we all know too well, the closure of Cindies isn’t the only problem of this term; studies are painfully virtual, my room is my office, so on and so forth. Let us talk about one thing that many will agree is not the same anymore: travel.

I did my undergrad in Moscow, Russia, while my boyfriend is doing a PhD in Princeton in the US. Because of that I usually visit him in the summer, and even the pandemic couldn’t force me to make an exception. Thus, before going to Cambridge, I made a three-month stop in New Jersey.

There are a lot of things to observe in New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts and New Jersey, from skyscrapers to entertainment parks, cinemas to nature reserves. My arrival coincided with the revolts in New York, when there were robberies in the night on Broadway; and while passengers arriving at JFK airport do not exactly pass through Manhattan on their way to New Jersey, I was still scared.

Most of my time was spent drawing and studying, almost always at home. A small proportion of restaurants and cafes could offer outdoor sitting, and only they were permitted to serve food in an ordinary matter; the rest were forced to rely on delivery. And while my favorite American dish is, of course, buffalo chicken wings, I would recommend a lot of other food: onion soups, exquisite all-you-can eat sushi and sashimi, New York burgers and sauces, Maine lobster sandwiches, Connecticut desserts and Philly cheesesteaks.

My favorite American dish is, of course, buffalo chicken wings

Six Flags, an adventure park, transformed its safari into a drive-through experience. Formerly a huge truck would drive people through fields with freely roaming elks, buffalo, ostriches, kangaroo and giraffes, and this summer the same thing could be experienced from a personal car.  Obviously, we were asked to keep doors and windows shut, but I saw some people feeding the alpacas. There were even some caged tigers.

You might be would be surprised by the number of tigers in the US, there are more of them in the states than in the wild in the whole world. When it comes to animal conservation (and a lot of other issues), the US has different laws, and the destinies of animals reflect the history of legislation. For example, at one point it was legal to capture wolves from the wild, so a lot of people owned wolves. Now, however, it is illegal in New Jersey both to capture wild wolves and to release captive wolves into the wild, so there exist places like the Lakota Wolf Preserve that are dedicated to give a better life to families of captured wolves. Their caretaker can tell each wolf by his or her howl, and they howl together with him like one pack.

AMC, a cinema chain, has continued to issue social-distanced movie tickets, but for some reason the entire state of New Jersey was either unaware of the fact or terrified of going there. So we ended up going to see Tenet completely alone, two people in a huge hall. Best. Cinema. Ever. I later found out that this particular one went bankrupt, and frankly, it does not surprise me.

Even with places of entertainment shutting down, there was always something to do. At one point we decided to drive to Portland, Maine, and try some of the famous lobsters. Admiring the sea, the sunset and the yachts with one’s beloved while enjoying delicious lobster sandwiches is a wonderful date. We drove to Acadia National Park, a place almost untouched by humans, with pristine waters and sleepy hills. Even though we almost didn’t get out of the car, I enjoyed the experience.

But when I tried to leave this country of bliss and burgers, things went south. Firstly, since I am Russian, the visa was always bound to be a nightmare. Ordinarily, I would require to return to Moscow to apply for it, but my flight to Moscow was cancelled, so I had to rely on the US system. But because of the pandemic, all centers were only working once a week, so I booked a very late appointment.

But when I tried to leave this country of bliss and burgers, things went south.

Secondly, the flight tickets. My flight to Cambridge was cancelled jointly by American Airlines and British Airways with no notice, and I could write a thousand angry stories about my heated conversations with them on the phone. Eventually, I got myself a flight for the next day. I’m still fighting them for a compensation. But the good part was that there were only around 20 passengers on the plane, and I could occupy three seats.

And then… Cambridge, but I suppose you know what happens next. I am just sitting in my room, studying and wondering if I’m going to be able to travel again soon. But I love this place so much that I am ready to forget about my latest troubles…