Week 3 in Chicago (24th - 30th September 2007)

Monday, 24th September 2007: Antonio waited till midnight to give me a surprise birthday present – a scarf and an ape soft toy! Oh, you’re so sweet! Thank you!! Hey, so when did you buy it and where did you hide it? I was mostly at home but didn’t see or find the hidden present (and his apartment is pretty empty so it’s not like it would be ‘hidden’). Hmm…

Headed off to Shedd Aquarium, The World's Aquarium in Chicago this morning. It was a very big aquarium - felt so tired from so much walking! Lots of exhibits to see from fishes to mammals and even lizards. Oh, and I went in for free. Yep, it was another one of those free admission days :) See? I did my homework beforehand...hehe…Photos taken at the aquarium: http://www.flickr.com/photos/8070917@N05/sets/72157603818710909/detail/

I went to The Field Museum next which was located close to the aquarium. I was minding my own business walking towards the museum and went to throw away my muesli bar wrapper in the rubbish bin when I heard someone calling out to me “hey you!” – I froze, thinking that I must have done something wrong, like throw the wrapper in the wrong bin or something. I turned my back to find a park district officer in his truck signalling to me to come over. Oh-o…am I in BIG trouble? I braved myself and walked over…and he said, “Konnichiwa!” to me. OK, now THAT wasn’t what I expected. Turns out he just wanted to chat to the lone tourist (me, that is) and tried all the greetings he knew in all the Asian languages to guess which country I came from. Wrong, wrong and wrong! “Ok, I give up – where do you come from?” he finally asked. Oh, and by the way, when I tell people that I come from NZ, I get all sorts of interesting responses of what people perceive of NZ – All Blacks, Lord of the Rings, green country, lots of sheep, adventure sports. He asked me which state in Australia it was in and how far it was to drive to from Sydney. Right…er, if you could drive past the ocean…He was nice enough to invite me for a ride with him along the lake while he does his park rounds tomorrow but I’ve got other plans. Thanks anyway!

45 minutes of chit-chat later, I finally entered the Field Museum. Another large complex with lots of exhibits to see (make sure you take time out to visit places like this). The Field Museum is also home to Sue, the largest, most complete preserved T-rex fossil yet discovered. Sue stands 13 feet high at the hips and 42 feet long from head to tail. One of the only pieces of Sue that is not mounted is her 5-foot-long skull, which is too heavy to be placed on the steel armature that holds together her more than 200 fossilized bones. In its place, the Museum has installed a cast replica. Sue’s real skull is on display in an exhibit on the second-floor balcony overlooking Stanley Field Hall. Photos taken at the museum: http://www.flickr.com/photos/8070917@N05/sets/72157603819363499/detail/

Around 6pm, I went to meet up with Antonio at his office. There was a salsa social dance event in the university so we thought it would be a good idea to check it out. Nothing was really happening – there was a free introductory class but not really suited for us. Antonio ended up chatting with the organiser who was keen to look for more salsa teachers – Antonio may be teaching beginners rueda in the next term. Cool! I would like to be able to do that too (teach dance, that is), perhaps when I’ve settled down somewhere for a longer period.

Oh, here's a photo of me and Tumba (the ape) taken before going out for dinner:

We took the car and went to Tango Sur, an Argentinean restaurant for dinner to celebrate my birthday. I was missing a good steak and the Argentinean way of cooking steak was supposed to be top-notch. Hmm, my tummy was grumbling already…It was rather packed tonight and lots of chatter. We were seated outside having candlelight dinner, enjoying the evening breeze. Dinner was really nice but we should have stuck to ordering 1 main meal for the 2 of us (I was so full and we had to pack half of the food home). Ordered 2 dishes Churrasco (my large cut of Argentinian beef topped with chimichurri, a sauce and marinade for grilled meat) and Parillada (Antonio's mixed grill containing short ribs, chorizo, blood sausage and sweetbreads). And we still managed to squeeze in a flan for dessert! Photos at the restaurant:

To top the night off, Antonio took me to this place called the Green Mill Jazz Club where a live jazz band was playing bossa novas and blues. Interestingly, the audience were not allowed to talk when the band was playing. Ah, it was very nice slow music to sway and drink red wine to. Hmm, I can so see myself getting used enjoying my life like this. Thanks so much for the wonderful night, Antonio! Photo at the Green Mill:

Another birthday, another year older (oh yeah, I can feel that now I'm no longer 25, haha!) and wiser (hope so though I had all 4 of my wisdom teeth pulled out already) :P What's my wish for the year? Simple - happiness and good health. Without these 2 key elements, even with all the riches in the world, one would not be content with life :) Well, maybe a few other things thrown in as well but that's secret...hehe...

Tuesday, 25th September 2007: Stayed at home today to apply for jobs in Wellington. Only 3 more weeks till the end of my holidays and I will need the money!

By the way, I googled 'sweetbreads' (I ate quite a few of them last night - it was so yummy) to find out what it was. Antonio wouldn't tell me so I did my own investigation. You will not believe what I found: Sweetbreads is the name of a dish made of the thymus gland or pancreas of an animal younger than one year old. These animals are usually lambs or calves. The idea of it makes me feel a bit queezy inside but hey, least I can say I've tried something pretty exotic for my birthday! Woo-hoo!!

Antonio and I went to another famous jazz bar/club at night called New Apartment Lounge on 47th Street. This area we were is notoriously known to be the “Black” area i.e. me or Antonio will stand out in the crowd as neither of us were African Americans. The type of jazz music played was not so much my cup of tea. Each individual member of the group did a stint which made the one song last like what seemed forever. It got better for me when 2 women joined the group and sang.

There was this policy the bartender had: minimum 2 drinks at the bar. Antonio and I were sitting at the bar and there was no way I could have my 2nd drink (I wasn’t feeling too good). The bartender just wouldn’t have it and started to grumble so we offered to pay for another beer but told her she could keep the drink. That didn’t help! She got even angrier and said there will be no next time (she didn’t take our money either). Weird...

Wednesday, 26th September 2007: Spent the day chilling out at home. Went to have dinner with Antonio and some of his friends at the university bar called The Pub (a 'hidden' underground bar in Ida Noyes Hall Basement). It is a private club and students pay USD5 for the annual membership while guests pay USD1 at the door. Paco and Maria were there and I met another couple Luca (a new professor in Antonio’s department from Italy) and his Portuguese partner Katarina. It was a nice drinks and dinner night – we’ll have to do this again soon! Oh, and The Pub makes the nicest vegetarian burgers I’ve had with curly fries! Not to mention, the pint of beer was really cheap (I think it was USD12 for a pint).

Thursday, 27th September 2007: I didn’t do much today but stayed home. Was feeling a bit under the weather so slept most of the day.

Friday, 28th September 2007: I went to Co-Op on 53rd Street to do the groceries today. Not sure what happened but the police was pinning down a guy who was beaten up just outside the store. Bloody situation!

Spent the afternoon with Maria at the Midway Plaisance in Hyde Park just sitting on the grass watching people walk by. It was fun to hang out with her and get to know her better. And it was such a nice sunny day too!

Antonio and I later went to picked up Luca, Paco and Maria (they were all living in Hyde Park) and went meet Laura for dinner at Pizza Metro. Pizza Metro is one of Laura’s frequent places to grab a bite and they had a very nice variety of pizzas that you could order. Claus came with Lau (that’s what we call Laura) by bike (by the way, it’s very common for Chicagoans to bike), and Vlado joined us shortly after.

All of us headed off to Danny’s for drinks and dance. It was so funny to ‘race’ Claus and Lau on the road (they were cycling and the rest of us were in the car). The music tonight was kind of hip-hop but out of nowhere, the DJ played a salsa song. Sure enough, Antonio and I wouldn't miss the opportunity for a dance. It was strange in the sense the whole dance floor opened up and people watched us dancing. I had fun and our audience enjoyed it (they clapped when we finished). Hehe...Liz (Jonathan’s gf) and Beth came to join us at Danny's. Photos ‘sneakily’ taken by Beth:

Gabi sure has strange ways for us to track him down. He was supposed to meet us at Pizza Metro but we left before he got there. He left a message with one of the guys and we called him back, not on his mobile but Pizza Metro’s number (Gabi doesn’t have a mobile phone)! We had to ask the Pizza Metro staff to pass the phone to the Uruguayan who’s eating there!! And they had no problem finding him too – Gabi must have done this often enough...hehe…

Saturday, 29th September 2007: Spent most of my day finalising my trip to Washington DC and New York. Yep, heading over on Monday to DC and pre-planning places to visit during my short 1-week trip to both cities. Most of my trips to date were self day-trips or with friends and family. This will be exciting – my very first official trip travelling on MY OWN in a foreign place!!

Antonio and I went to see Sax in the City at Midway Plaisance perform in conjuction with the Hyde Park Jazz Festival on 59th Street and bumped into Luca near the end of the show. It was a nice evening enjoying the sunset and wonderful sax songs.

Vanya, another friend of Antonio’s, later caught up with us (me, Antonio and Luca) and we all went to do takeaway at Caffe Florian (the cafe is located just across the street from where Antonio lives - how convenient!). Claus, Vlado and Lau met up with us there and we had dinner and drinks at Antonio’s apartment before heading to 55th Street to Cecelia’s 26th birthday party (she’s Antonio’s cousin’s cousin – distant relative in short). Happy birthday, Cecelia! Photos taken this evening: http://www.flickr.com/photos/8070917@N05/sets/72157603819357499/detail/

Sunday, 30th September 2007: Another gorgeous day in the city of Chicago. Ah…

Headed off to the lake with Antonio to soak in some afternoon sun before Sunday soccer game at Lincoln Park. Luca, Paco, Maria and us seem to be inseparable these days! Hehe…we had a great time on the soccer field – my first soccer game!! I didn’t know how to kick the ball properly or defend (sorry team!) and the ball keeps ending up at all the wrong places (to the other team too!). Ai yai yai – no, no, no!!

We were famished by the end of the game. Luca, Paco, Maria, Antonio and I went to Chinatown for dinner at Sushi Lounge, a subterranean Chinatown spot decked with colorful, quirky furniture, including chairs that resemble giant hands. Hmm, I haven’t had any sushi since I left Wellington so am looking forward to some nice sushi. It was quite a long wait for the sushi though (were they catching the fish??!) and I’m was STARVING!


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