I fixed the Peanuts comic strip link
I have received several inquiries as of late along the lines of, Heather are you still alive over there in Chicago?! And the answer is, yes I am, I just haven't updated this blog in a while! You could say that I have fallen into the abyss that is a Chicago winter, but not in the way that most Chicagoans apparently just go into hibernation until spring. Around here, people talk about the winter like it's going out of style, but the more they complain about it, the more I enjoy it. They say that winters are supposed to be so horrid--both weather-wise and activity-wise--that you can hardly stand to leave your house except to go to work and the grocery store. I've found that not only is the weather not nearly as dire as people make it out to be, but also there seems to be even more
to do than in the nicer months. Or perhaps I've just gotten better at finding it. Either way, suffice it to say that ever since getting back from Christmas break, I have kept quite busy.
First a word on the weather: to the chagrin of all I announce this to around here, I LOVE the snow. I simply cannot get over how daily life continues to go on with piles and piles of snow. That being said, there is not snow all the time. I thought it would be a constant cover of the white stuff, from like November to March. But in reality, we have a snow storm, it stays around for a couple days, and then it melts and we start over. The one constant is the wind, which does make it pretty ridiculously cold. We had a stretch of negative-degree days back in January, which I believe was my first time ever walking around in negative weather. Add in the wind chill factor, and it was "bitterly cold" (the weathermen's favorite phrase) around here for a while. In general, it has been in the teens, sometimes colder sometimes warmer, for January and February. But one weekend, it got up to 59 degrees, which felt like a spring thaw! Even when it gets above freezing, like in the 30s, it feels so warm and it's a treat to be able to take off a layer. So far, this winter has been in the top 10 snowiest ever for Chicago, and it's the coldest winter since 1996.
The only other people who seem to share my love of snow are the kids at my school. They are even so lucky as to go out and play in it at recess. Oh did you know they have cold-day recesses here? I grew up with rainy-day recess, where you have to stay inside when it rains, and I assumed they'd have snowy-day recess. But the only time the kids must stay in is if it's below 20 degrees, regardless of the snow. That reminds me, they had an article in the paper about a snow in Washington DC that shut down the Obama girls' school, and they were making fun of the people in DC for being such snow wimps. Well now I understand where they're coming from...when it snows in Chicago, life just keeps on moving along. I love being the first to crunch through it in the morning on my way to the bus stop, before the shopkeepers have shoveled their sidewalks and the pedestrians have turned it to slush. I love being at school or riding the bus and looking out the window and watching it float down. I love the way when a light dusting barely covers the ground, the wind can swirl it around like fairy dust or sand dunes. I love riding the L way up high and seeing the snow covering all the rooftops and watching it blow in when the train doors open at stations. I love bundling up with some combo of my scarf, hat, gloves, earmuffs, long underwear, jacket and boots. I have gotten used to throwing a pair of shoes in my bag to change into once I get to school. This is a Peanuts comic strip
that pretty much sums up my feelings on snow.
I have officially seen five down coats around Chicago that are a color other than black, brown, or white. Two of those people had my exact same blue LLBean down coat, one was yellow, and the other two shades of red/pink. I am glad for my color though because I think cars can spot me better. That reminds me that Juliana, one of the other LVC girls, got hit by a car a few weeks ago. Long story and she's fine now, but she ended up breaking her nose, getting stitches where she bit through her bottom lip, and getting several bad bruises. Needless to say, we have all been slightly more cautious when crossing streets and generally dealing with cars. When you are a pedestrian 100% of the time (well at least when not on the bus or L), you become very aware of cars and how traffic works.
I have gone to see two plays in the last few weeks. Juliana is my play buddy, and we went to see Dirty Dancing in January and Jersey Boys one random Friday night with last-minute cheap seats. Dirty Dancing was fun, just like the movie, and Jersey Boys is the energetic, rags to riches story of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons. We also have tickets to see Chicago (in Chicago!) this Thursday. And speaking of tickets, I spent nearly half an hour on the phone one morning at school trying to get reservations to see a taping of Oprah. Two phones actually, my cell phone and my desk phone, one on each ear, and redialing as fast as I could. I finally got through, which was a glorious moment, and got reservations for me, my mom, and my sister. (My family is coming to visit the last weekend of March!). And thinking about visitors reminds me that I had a mini-reunion with the girls I studied abroad with in France. My two roommates from France go to college in northern Indiana and were in Chicago doing auditions for theater grad schools. So we went out for coffee to catch up on the last two and a half years, which I cannot believe it's been that long since I was in France.
Lots has been going on at school as of late, ever since my principal had a ruptured appendix at the end of January. She was in the hospital for 10 days and is now recuperating at home for 4-6 weeks, which means the pace has picked up around the office as we all try to fill big principal-sized shoes. The programs director has sort of stepped in as an acting principal, and I've shared all I know with her. I've sort of surprised myself with really how much of the school operations I've picked up on--between discipline and paperwork, scheduling and dealing with students, parents, and community members, it takes a lot to keep a school organized. The school secretary who has been around for over 20 years pulls us all together. Aside from that, I watched the inauguration together with the whole school, endured the changing over of semesters, and chaperoned a middle school dance and choir field trip. We also had a Black History month assembly, soul food feast, and many guests from other schools at our weekly chapel. And a milestone: I'm pretty sure I know every kid in the school now, and it's really gratifying to be able to call them all by name.
I would be remiss if I didn't mention the crazy state of Illinois politics. Between Blago and now Roland Burris, there is no shortage of topics to shake your head over. Everyone can agree on one thing though: the entire city is proud of the Obamas. The banners still hang from lampposts all around the Loop, and when the family came to visit over President's Day weekend, it was the talk of the town. Michelle and Barack went out to dinner at a restaurant called Table Fifty-Two for Valentine's Day, and I read an article in the paper that said that restaurant has now become so popular that you can't get a weekend reservation there til early April. The article also said Barack had time to play basketball with his buddies and get a haircut. I also enjoyed my three day weekends for both MLK and President's days.
In other Chicago news, the city is trying out for the 2016 Summer Olympics. Chicago is up against Madrid, Tokyo, and Rio de Janeiro. The committee just released their mega-plan for where all the events would be located throughout the city, showing what infrastructure is already available and what would have to be constructed. There are also plans detailing where the Athletes' Village would be located and how they would beef up public transportation to accommodate the influx of visitors. I have my fingers crossed, because I know people here now that I could stay with during the Olympics :)
In honor of the Academy Awards from last night, here is a bit of trivia for you: Where are the Oscars made? That is, the little Oscar statuettes? The answer is...Chicago! According to the Tribune, "The statuettes have been made at the R.S. Owens factory, a nondescript building on North Lynch Avenue, since 1983." They're made out of britannia, which is a high-grade pewter alloy that is heated to 780 degrees and then poured into one of two molds ever made. I have seen four of the movies that were nominated for something: Wall-E, Benjamin Button, The Dark Knight, and Slumdog Millionaire, which I've actually seen twice and have the fantastic soundtrack. If you haven't seen it yet, please make it the next movie you go to! It is super well done, a great story, and opens your eyes to some of India's culture. Yes I know there has been some backlash surrounding it, but go see it and decide for yourself what you think.
Speaking of movies, Saturday I went to see a documentary at the Chicago Cultural Center. I think every city needs a place like the Chicago Cultural Center--it acts as both a welcome center for visitors/tourists and a gathering place with a cafe, tables, and couches for locals, and it also has a programming schedule that encompasses plays, music, art, film, and literature from cultures both near and afar. And the best part? Like 90% of what they offer is free! A quick side note: you might not think of Chicago as a very cultural place, but in fact it has so many different minority populations and neighborhoods it's incredible. Off the top of my head, I've visited the Greek, Ukrainian, Indian, Peurto Rican, Polish, Italian, and Korean neighborhoods, and of course where I live, which is mostly Mexican with other Central American countries thrown in the mix. And Chicago is actually the city in the world with the second biggest population of Polish people outside of Warsaw.
The documentary I saw introduced me to another apparently fairly large population in Chicago: Iranians. This was part of PBS' series of community films called Independent Lens, which shows documentaries in communities around the country and then airs them on PBS the next month. The film I saw was called Arusi Persian Wedding, and it's about a man who was born in Iran, but immigrated to the United States with his family when he was little. He married an American, and they had a regular American wedding, and then they decided to go to Iran to see his family and have a traditional Persian wedding. So it is a wonderful introduction to Iranian traditions, but also an interesting point of view from both the man, who said he feels kind of out of place in both countries, and also his wife, who has a completely European-American background and is experiencing her husband's home country for the first time. Juxtaposed with the couple's story was a brief overview of the history of relations between the United States and Iran, which is way too long of an ordeal to even begin to summarize here. But you should really just watch this on PBS! Go here
to find out when it's playing where you live. After the showing, they had a panel of several different perspectives, and people in the audience could ask questions. The basic themes discussed were: listen to people's stories, travel, and educate yourself... all good goals in life!
And for the rest of what I've been up to recently, just look at my pictures :)