Last week in Chicago (15th – 21st October 2007)

Monday, 15th October 2007: Got up early to shower and headed to Navy Pier but there was no hot water!! Reminded me of days when I was living in a student hostel (taking a cold showers in winter...brr!).

Got lost on bus and metro to Navy Pier and after 2 hours going in wrong directions within the city, I FINALLY got there. Yes! Navy Pier was originally opened as a shipping and recreational facility in 1916 and has evolved into a premier family entertainment centre. I walked through the shopping strip and stopped to ride the ferris wheel for USD6. Very nice view from the top. Halloween is just around the corner and this whole place was decorated to the theme. I think it’ll be nicer to visit Navy Pier during the night or weekend when there are more stuff happening - it was pretty quiet around here today. Photos taken at Navy Pier:

I took the free trolley to State Street looking for lunch when Maria texted me to meet up outside the Art Insitute. Caught up with Maria, Dilsia and their German classmate, Mareika for coffee at Intelligentsia Coffee. We make a very good representation of people from different skin colours - dark, olive, fair and Asian!

Hmm, I'm not sure where the blob of water came from, Dilsia...We were sitting outdoors, chatting over our drinks when something 'dropped' into Dilsia's large latte. Suspicions that it could come from the apartment upstairs or a bird flying past (ew!). Better don't drink it anymore!

Antonio and I went back to Las Tablas for dinner tonight - I've been thinking of the place the whole week! Tried Aborrajado (sweet plantain with sliced guava and melted cheese) for appetiser. Ooo, the cooked guava was so good and sweet! Literally melting in my mouth :) I had to have my sangria since I was there and we shared a main meal of Bistec a Caballo (sauteed rib eye steak with two eggs on top, potato and yuca simmered in delicious onion & tomato criolla sauce served with sweet plantain and rice). Please, if you go to Chicago, make sure you go to Las Tablas. I'll be so sad for you if you missed out on such glorious food!

About 9.30pm, we went to watch another festival movie with Laura and her friend Mary. This movie was titled The Age of Innocence (same director as Barbarian Invations). It was a French movie with a satirical swipe at the monotony of modern life. A middle-aged government cog with a sexless marriage and a pair of clueless teenage daughters escapes his humdrum existence through elaborate fantasies about being a triumphant and irresistible artist. Hmm...

Tuesday, 16th October 2007: I didn’t think M&Ms comes in peanut butter flavour! Sonja (my German friend in Wellington) had asked me to buy her some and I thought she was kidding. M&Ms REALLY do come in peanut butter flavour!! And they are very, very yummy :P But I think this is unique to America since I’ve never seen it sold elsewhere. In fact, America seems to be the only place I’ve been so far that has peanut butter in lots of stuff. Apparently, peanut butter is one of America's favorite foods. Found in about 75% of American homes, peanut butter is considered by many to be a staple like bread and milk. A-ha...

Didn’t do much today but stayed home to update my blog. Watched another DVD (yes, I do sound like a movie buff nowadays) tonight – Pulp Fiction. I’ve been meaning to see this old film of Quentin Tarantino just to see the extent of his gruesomeness (I’ve seen Kill Bill and I thought it was pretty gruesome and twisted – not my type of movie). Pulp Fiction’s not so extreme though.

Wednesday, 17th October 2007: Stayed home again to update my blog and had coffee with Dilsia and Maria in the afternoon on 57th Street. Oh, I’ll miss the girls and us hanging out…

Antonio, Paco, Maria and I went out for dinner and salsa dancing tonight. We went to a Spanish tapas bar Cafe Iberico and tried lots of interesting food. Had Canelon de Atun (tuna cannelloni served with a creamy white wine sauce), Champinones a la Plancha (grilled mushrooms with garlic and olive oil), Croquetas de Pollo (chicken and ham puffs served with ali-oli sauce), Gambas as Ajillo (grilled shrimp with olive oil, garlic and wine), Patatas Bravas (spicy potatoes with special tomato sauce) and Calamares a la Plancha (grilled squid with olive oil, garlic and lemon juice) with a pitcher of Red Sangria for the 4 of us. Delicioso (delicious)!! Photo at the restaurant:

This is the first time that Paco and Maria went out dancing salsa socially and Antonio took us all to Buzz Nightclub to shake all the food we ate off. Oh, I danced a lot! One fantastic thing about dancing here in the States is that the men will 'fight' to dance with a women (contrary to Wellington were the women outnumber the men). All you had to do was stand at the edge of the dancefloor and within seconds, someone will ask you for a dance. Downside is if you only want a dance or two, you need to tell your dance partner; otherwise, you practically will not leave the dancefloor. I had a continuous stream of men dancing with me one song after another - phew! As Maria always says, "Too much!".

Thursday, 18th October 2007: The weather seems to have gotten colder and drizzling these days. Stayed home and watch a DVD of a Brazilian movie titled City of God. Quite an interesting movie depicting life in the favelas (a favela is the Brazilian equivalent of a shanty town). I’m kind of happy that I could understand some words spoken though my Portuguese language is no where near conversational level (I had taken some introductory lessons in Portuguese previously).

Gabi had been talking and raving about this hot dog place in Hyde Park and Antonio decided we all check it out tonight. I went with the boys to Nathan’s for hot dogs – I guess all that talk from Gabi really made me think it was going to be something really special but it’s just a Chicago-style hot dog (nothing too big a deal). But it’s always fun to see Gabi because he’s really funny. I’ve never seen him in a suit and tie before (he had a job interview today) and can see that he doesn’t feel comfortable in one either. Hehe…Gabi’s more of the non-serious, casual jeans and shirt kind of guy; the suit make him look older than his age. He’s got a few more interviews lined up in the coming weeks – good luck!

Friday, 19th October 2007: Spent the afternoon at Maria’s place for girlie chit-chat, coffee and flan-making with Dilsia. I’ll need to try the recipe when I have a place of my own. It looks really easy to make (and also very nice to eat hehe…). Photos at Maria's:

With our cooking instructor, Dilsia holding the flan

We're going to eat this...'s so nice...want some?

Antonio and I went to a Mexican restaurant named Cesar’s at Lincoln Park for dinner and met up with friends in Happy Village later. Happy Village was quite busy tonight with people drinking and playing table tennis at the same time.

Saturday, 20th October 2007: Woke up late today and had brunch with Antonio in Medici on 57th Street before heading to his office. Antonio had to do some assignment marking and I just hung out at the office. Paco’s office was a few doors away – couldn’t resist knocking on the door to say hi :P Guess who I found there? Maria!

I believe I mentioned before that most Chicagoans own a bicycle. Antonio bought one recently and suggested that we rode to Navy Pier this afternoon, him on bike and me via the bus. Maria came up with an even better idea – why not take her bicycle? Are you sure, my dear?? Because I’m not! I’ve not ridden a bike for like 12 years and I’m not sure if I could still do so. “You’ll be fine!” said Maria but I’m not so sure…

After 20 minutes of bike lesson from Maria, I think I’ve managed to balance myself on the bike and not swerve into a wall or rubbish bin. It’s slowly coming back to me, I can feel it!

The cycle to Navy Pier was nice – not too hilly and gorgeous views cycling by the lake. It was a sunny day with a bit of breeze and it took about 45 minutes to cycle one-way from Hyde Park to Navy Pier. We made a stop at Navy Pier for ice-cream and a short break before heading back. It was very busy here today, far busier than when I came on Monday. Obviously – it was the weekend! Photo on Maria's bike (and wearing Antonio's bike helmet as I'm more prone to crashing):

At night, Antonio and I went to catch up with Paco and Maria at the university. There was a salsa introductory class and party on. Paco makes me smile and laugh when he dances with Maria – his exaggerates his moves to tease Maria. :) Sheila and Felipe were teaching so we stayed on for the party and danced. Tonight would probably be my last salsa dance in Chicago as I’m leaving on Monday. Sob, sob! We spent the rest of the night downstairs at The Pub for dinner, drinks and chit-chat. Photos of us salsa dancing:

Sunday, 21st October 2007: Started to pack up for flight back to NZ tomorrow. Feeling sad that my holidays are officially coming to an end...

I went to play soccer with the rest of the gang at 3pm at our usual place in Lincoln Park – was nice, sunny day. It was sad to say goodbye to my friends at the end of the game. It has been a great pleasure getting to know you all - please keep in touch! Photos taken today:

The one thing I love about autumn here is the colour of the leaves – shades of red to yellow with some green ones left on the trees. Grassy areas are covered with fallen leaves, making the surrounding peaceful and romantic. Makes me want to put on my coat, scarf and beanie, and cuddle with someone as I walk under the canopy of trees. Hmm…

Dinner tonight was at a Cuban restaurant Café Bolero. Didn't do much the rest of the night except to finish up with my packing and watched a strange Italian movie titled Caro Diario.


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