Simmons College (now University)

Simmons University acting as UMass Dartmouth

If you at all follow this blog, one of the best in the inter-web, you know I have lately been catching up on my film viewing.

I recently watched Patriots Day starring Mark Wahlberg and Kevin Bacon, about the Boston Marathon bombings of 2013. Without spoilers, one of the bombers is a student at UMass Dartmouth, and when they show a panorama shot of the university, it is not UMass Dartmouth at all, (According to Imdb, UMass Dartmouth did not allow filming on its campus) it is my beloved Simmons College (now University) where I got my Masters!! And I realized I had never written about that experience on my blog.

My teaching adventure started by being a substitute teacher at Newburyport School District in 2005. I got my first real job teaching at Milton High School in the Fall of 2006. The school was rough, I had a lot to learn in a tough environment. Fortunately, I had a great boss who supported me, she recommended that if I wanted to pursue a career in teaching I should get a master’s degree. So I did my research: Only a few universities had evening programs for Spanish: Boston College, Boston University and Simmons. Guess which one had the best value and was closest to home?

Going back to school -as a student- was a bit daunting, something I had not done in exactly 20 years, but I was committed and loved the idea of learning in an academic setting. I loved my teachers; they were outstanding, tough but caring. My learning curve was steep, but I enjoyed every minute! Surprisingly, I thrived, I loved it. I was lucky to study Don Quixote and Golden Age literature under Louise Cohen, Spanish film with Dolores Pelaez-Benitez, Latin American lit with Raquel Halty and Modern Latin American lit with Danisa Bonacic. I must confess it was the first time in my life I saw As, never mind straight As! I looked forward to class, I did my research and wrote my essays with enthusiasm.

My cohort was a blast: Paul, Corrinne, Andrea, Laura, John, even the undergrads were nice, I am still in touch with them thanks to social media!

Photo Cred. Andrea

Simmons campus is small, but it is a proper campus, right in the middle of Boston, next to The Museum of Fine Arts and next door to the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, where Simmons students have free access. I would often arrive early to have a walk around the museum! The library had been recently renovated and was a great place to work and study before class. Simmons Library Science program is considered one of the best in the country. They also have a full Olympic pool where I would sometimes swim.

Although I loved every class and every teacher, I was particularly fond of Louise Cohen and her amazing mastery of Don Quixote and Golden Age Literature. It was for her class that I wrote about Don Quixote being the grandfather of Existentialist philosophy, which you can read in this blog by clicking here.

You might ask, “wait a minute, isn’t Simmons a women only college?”. The answer is yes, but only for undergrad programs, my MA was co-ed.

Prof. Halty was the department chair would host our cohort for dinner in her beautiful Weston home during the Christmas holidays. After my graduation I stayed in touch with my professors. Prof. Halty became my mentor in helping me get into a PhD program, she was also incredibly supportive during my breakdown.

In conclusion, Simmons College was a fantastic experience for me. A small school in the heart of Boston, with top level professors, great colleagues, and amazing facilities.

New England (the region) and Manchester by the Sea (the film)

Yes, I know it was released in 2016. So I am a little late on my movie viewing, OK? I recently watched Manchester by the Sea and loved it. It is a deeply human story set on the North Shore of Boston, in winter, an area I know and adore.

I first fell in love with New England when I moved to Boston for college in 1983. I fell in love with the Fall, with Boston, with the picture-perfect towns all around, with Walden Pond and Cape Cod, the Berkshires, New Hampshire’s White Mountains, lobster rolls, clam chowder, Dunkin Donuts, pretty much everything. After college I got the opportunity to work in Boston for a couple of years. I lived in a tiny apartment in the Back Bay and worked on the waterfront in the financial district. It was then that I really had a chance to further explore and discover. With a group of friends, the infamous Boston Gourmet Society, we would spend Summer weekends at the beach in Maine, and Winters skiing in Sugarloaf, renting a ski chalet for the season.

In 2005 I went back, and with added maturity, I really got to appreciate New England. We lived in Newburyport and Milton. Then I moved back to old Back Bay in Boston, I worked in those places and then Natick, and Cambridge and enjoyed it thoroughly. Loved the history, the food, the culture, yes, even the people!

My work during my first stay in Boston was in the financial sector, but on the second round, as a teacher and coach I got to visit schools for soccer, tennis, and fencing all over the Boston area, including Concord, Newport Rhode Island and Exeter New Hampshire! It was beautiful to see the seasons and the foliage, the towns, the forests, and the seashore.

The film Manchester by the Sea takes place during the bleak New England Winter, where everything is frozen, even the ground! Casey Affleck (not the sexy one, the one that can act) nails his performance. It is a tough, emotional film but I highly recommend it. For me it was a double whammy. As an emotional person, I really connected with the plot, and the photography of New England, specially of the North Shore, really drove home the film for me.

So, there you have it, two recommendations in one blog post: New England (the region) and Manchester by the Sea (the beautiful town AND the film). Enjoy.

Nature in my Southern Florida neighborhood

If you have at all followed this blog, you know how important nature is for me. Although I am a city boy, I grew up spending every weekend and Summer in the country. I still crave nature and try to spend as much time outdoors as possible. I have written before about the benefits of “forest bathing”, “Shinrin Yoku”. Although Boynton Beach is a suburban wasteland, there are a few great places to connect with nature.

The first and most obvious is the beach! I am lucky to live close enough to the beach that I can go for a run or if conditions are right, an open water swim about once a week. It makes my workout into a meditation; the sea clears your mind! I also go to the beach for my weekly “volunteering” shift where I walk and clean, mostly plastics, but also papers, old flip flops, etc. from the shore.

On the opposite, Western edge of town is the Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge which consist of two parts, a mile boardwalk in Florida subtropical forest, and massive swamp that you can walk next to, or canoe on. Here you can see a lot of Florida wildlife: gators, deer, and plenty of birds.

Finally, a few blocks from home I have the Seacrest Scrub Natural Area which is a small park mostly hosting Gopher turtles. This little park is perfect for a quick walk to clear your mind, meditate or just wander.

So I can’t complain as far as outdoor venues is concerned.