On the first morning, I received a huge box full of my stuff, my friend had stored all these 18 months I was away. In March 1, 2020 I left Amherst with full confidence I will return in few weeks, so I left here quite much of a stuff. The feeling, examining the contents of the box was somewhere between the one you have while opening Christmas presents and after good shopping. Cool stuff I had forgotten I own!
Establishing a temporary workplace, adjusting computer, filling arrival forms, struggling with access to UMass mail (turned out a bug, IT guys solved), and applying for UCard takes some effort (blame jetlag!). I believe it will take few days to properly settle in, meanwhile I try to work at the kitchen table, on a small laptop, which is quite a downgrade comparing to double monitors on adjustable height desk I have at home.
During the two years since I was here as a Fulbright scholar, some procedures have changed (for instance, application for UMass card). Now it must be done on the website, and instead of taking a photo at the university, I must upload one. It must be recent and satisfy different requirements, similar to those for US passports. After the office approves the photo, I can book an appointment, a specific 5 minute slot, to receive the card.
For me UCard is necessary to check out books from the library, but for a student it is the official identification card and debit card to pay for services on campus – in library, gift shop, dining places, parking, renting bikes, and more. I will get mine on Thursday.
Yesterday I strolled through the center of Amherst and took some pictures to give you a glimpse how the center of an almost typical town in Massachusetts looks like. A disclaimer: the adjacent streets, residential area, look quite different, but these I will show you some other time.
Amherst is a town is Western Mass, Hampshire County. Its population is somewhere in between 35k-40k, not counting the students (around 30k in UMass, most of which are undergrads, and some 2k in Amherst college). So, statistically speaking, every second person you may meet on a street, is a student.
If you google, what Amherst is famous of, the result will be that Amherst is known for its bookishness, its artsyness, its local food obsession, its openness and tolerance, and its beauty. It is true, there are quite a number of authors who have been born, lived, or worked in Amherst. Most famous would be Robert Frost, Emily Dickinson, Robert Francis, and – from recent – Cassandra Clare (if you have watchet Netflix show “Shadowhunders”, you may have seen her name). The city is open and tolerant, “blue” (as democratic), highly vaccinated (vaccination rates are close to 80%, from total population, including kids who cannot get vaccines), LGBT tolerant as well. Food obsession is another issue, I will dwell upon later: but in this small town one can get a meal from unbelievable kitchens. I have already visited Szechuan Chinese restaurant (crazy chilly lamb), Vietnamese restaurant (seafood in lemongrass sauce), but there are so much more to explore.
Beauty of Amherst in my opinion lies mainly in the nearby nature : it is located Pioneer Valley – part of Connecticut river valley, it has hills in it and around it, lakes, reservoirs and has lots of places for a nice walk.
Let’s stop here with the excursion. Time to get the work done, so I can immerse myself in the books once I get hold of them!