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The Magnets in my Hands– Philippines 2012

For those of you who don’t know, I’m half Indian and half Filipina. I proudly call myself an American, but in terms of ethnicity, I identify more with Filipinos. This Spring Break, I flew to the Philippines to visit relatives in anticipation of the time constraints coming up in my program.

I typically fly from Chicago to Savannah by myself. I’ve done international travel to Spain with a friend, but I have never attempted international travel all by myself before. I didn’t think it would be a big deal. It’d be 20 hours of flying, a few annoying hours during layovers, then BAM– I’d be in the Philippine capital, Manila. Friends, I need to stop assuming that life can actually be simple 😉  Maybe it’s because I have magnets in my hands that break every machine I touch, but the flight was nowhere near as easy as I anticipated.

Let’s do the International Shuffle! My Cathay Pacific flight out of Chicago was cancelled (due to engine malfunctions) for 24 hours after we waited 4 just to get through check-in and security lines. The plane finally took off the next day, the airport promising that during the

I woke up in Hong Kong to see this going on just outside my window.

course of the 15 hour flight, they’d rebook us to connecting flights. We landed in Hong Kong, where we found out that no one had been rebooked. By this time, I had met several passengers from my same flight, and I was “adopted” by a group of Chicagoan Filipinos– two free masons, a business man, an engineer, and a retired political hero. Together, we managed to make it to a hotel in Hong Kong at 1 AM. The next morning, after an engaging discussion about the free masons, I wandered outside into a public park where people were doing Tai Chi, sword dances, and fan dances. There were even bonsai trees! Despite the fact that relatives in both the States and the Philippines were panicking over my international delay, I can’t deny that this stopover was fun.

So we’re on the plane again, and it’s speeding up to take off for Manila. Speed up, speed up, speed up– HARD BRAKE. And another 3 hour delay to fix the landing gear.

All in all, my International Shuffle was a nightmare. But it all became worth it once I touched ground in the Philippines.

Philippines. Many people can’t point to the Philippines on a map. A few people I had met didn’t even know what continent it belonged to. Some hadn’t even heard of it. It’s an archipelago right under China.

What do I like about the Philippines itself?

1) When you picture a tropical paradise, what do you think of– coconuts? White sand? Beautiful beaches? Lovely tanned natives? Food? Massages? The Philippines offers all of that, and at the glorious exchange rate of US dollars to Philippine pesos, you can indulge in a massage and excellent meal for a lot cheaper than you expected.

A cow grazes in its owners’ front yard.

2) Farms. When I stay in the provincial areas of the Philippines, I will often wake up to the sound of roosters crowing either next door or right outside my window. You will see all kinds of livestock, from cows to pigs, from goats to chickens. Stray roosters are completely common.

All hail the shameless tourist.

3) Fish markets! I drag my poor aunty to the fish market when I visit Bohol (a common and recommended place to visit) because I am so fascinated by what I find there. There’s not just beautiful, colorful fish. They’ve got stingrays, eels, squid, mussels, crabs, and chicken spleens just laying out on counters for customers to inspect for themselves. The first time I brought my camera to the fish markets, even the shopkeepers couldn’t not help but giggle and smile. I’m such a shameless tourist.

4) Tarsiers! The smallest primate in the world, these are found in Bohol. We used to be able to have them perch on our shoulders (they look like Gremlin-E.T creatures), but because of the stress of being handled by so many tourists per day, the tarsiers are now allowed to sleep in trees while people quietly take pictures of them.

5) Family. I’m obligated to say that ;)I’ve got a ton of family who welcomes me with open arms when I touch base in Manila, Dumaguete, Bohol, and Santa Cruz. I love them all.

6) Food. The Filipinos can cook anything that does or does not move… and do they can do it WELL.

Because the trip lasted a good week and a half, I don’t want to bore you with awesome details, but it was a fun trip, I took lots of pictures, met with almost all of my relatives there, and ate a lot of good, good food. Now, I am back in Chicago. Roommate is gone for the month of May, so it’s just me. Looks like I might have to investigate some new adventure spots here in my own city this summer 😉

Hope you are all doing well! Thanks for reading!

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“It’s an undergrad dorm, what do you expect?”

(WARNING: People with Arachnophobia, this post contains material about spiders.)

“We would like to apologize for the temperature in the building: it has been unseasonably warm recently. According to a Chicago City Ordinance 13-196-410 Residential buildings: “Every family unit or rooming unit to which heat is furnished from a heating plant used in common for the purpose of heating the various rooms of the dwelling shall be supplied with heat from September 15th of each year to June 1st of the succeeding year…” Thus, we are not able to turn our HVAC system over from heat to air yet, but please feel free to call the City of Chicago to address this issue. And again, we sincerely apologize for the inconvenience. ” – Facebook post from management

Soon after reading the Facebook post from management, I read a comment by another tenant:

“The small opening of our window (which has been broken all year by the way) is not enough to cool down the apartment. Bugs and spiders also come in. May 31st cannot come soon enough.”

We had cracked our windows open too. My eyes slowly moved to my ceiling and lo and behold, two inch-long spiders had already finished intricate webs above my desk. Another had made a web across our window, and yet another was watching over Renee’s laundry basket.

"I'ma shoot a parachute out mah butt and peace out, yo!!"

Spiders apparently engage in something called ballooning where they shoot little web-parachutes out of their hineys and get dragged around. For them, it’s an alternative to climbing things like, say, our apartment building. The Chicago Sun Times cheerily reports that this “Spiderfest” is a common occurrence in the Loop. Skyscrapers help create strong drafts that take ballooning spiders and whisk them up to the windows of classy lofts, and of course, our student housing. I find this fascinating and I have a profound respect for spiders and what they do (eat bugs I hate). But in my 5’0″ glory, gathering every spider into a little glass jar and setting them free outside was going to be a potentially risky task. So I whispered apologies as I picked up my shoe.

It’s an undergrad dorm, what do you expect?

Well, certainly not what happened that night. I was sitting in a chair and drawing when Renee’s timid little voice called out: “Ummm..!” She was standing in front of our room the carpet sopping wet beneath her. Indeed, when I stepped on the carpet myself, water spouted up like that scene from that Disney movie Dinosaur (2000) when Aladar found water by stomping down on seemingly dry ground. Apparently, people three floors up had left their sink running, draining water down into the apartments below.

I was at practicum when Renee called me, letting me know that our carpet was being torn up and they were putting de-humidifiers and fans in the room. She told me to come back to the apartment later to see if we wanted to temporarily re-locate to another unit for a few nights until the carpet was dry.

I came back to find this, and the answer was immediate. We packed up a few necessities and moved down a few floors, and will be spending the weekend in an otherwise unoccupied unit until the building has fixed our room. Admittedly, it’s nice and quiet down here and if anything, Renee and I have been enjoying the little change of pace.

Hmmm…

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St. Patrick’s Day 2012

I get stupid-happy about St. Patrick’s Day. To me, it’s a day to dress up,  remember my upbringing in an Irish-Catholic school, and now it’s become a day to pine for my hometown again. Nevertheless, I ran my reluctant roommate and boyfriend straight into the crowd with me. Homesickness was not going to best me on this fantastic feast day.

According to the Huffington Post, the St. Patrick’s Day parade dates back five decades and has grown to not only feature traditional bagpipes, marching bands, and floats, but politicians as well. At one point, I was handed a sticker saying that I supported “Thompson”. Who the heck is Thompson, I wondered, staring at the little sticker (that I was secretly glad was free because I love free things), I can’t wear this cool sticker unless I find out who he is. Turned out that the great and powerful “Thompson” is somehow in connected with the Chicago water supply. Sure I’ll support you, Thompson. *stick*

I don't quite agree with your definition of clever, sir, but I will give you props for gluing things to your head and being okay with it.

So there were several interesting costumes and dress-up ideas that fascinated me. One was a gentleman who had glued bottles to his bald head, which still puzzles me. Here are some other interesting pics:

                                          

The parade was what I expected from a typical St. Patty’s parade. Lots of floats, people waving and screaming “HAPPY ST. PATRICK’S DAY!”, and the occasional band (I’ve always had a soft spot of bagpipes and would be thrilled to learn how to play them). When the politicians started rolling in, however, I decided that it was time to head towards the river to see how green it really was.

I’ll admit that I thought the pictures of past river-dyeings were somehow doctored. That was just way too green. Radioactive, almost (which would be appropriate, considering what’s in it). And yet, we got there and I was stunned to see that the pictures were VERY true to the color! The dye is apparently environmentally friendly, created to trace pollution in water supplies. It was pretty neat to see, even if we kinda hurried past it in search for reprieve from the sweltering heat.

Was it the throngs of people that made it so uncomfortably hot? The fact that I hadn’t hydrated after the pre-gaming I’d done the previous night (Fact: 13 million pints of Guinness beer are consumed on St. Patrick’s Day)? Or was it just the fact that it was unseasonably warm? I don’t know, but I felt myself going a little faint and craving something iced from Caribou Coffee.

AND WE FOUGHT TO GET TO IT.

The streets, the buses, and the subway were all jam-packed with people. We pushed, shuffled, squeezed, tripped, inched, and slithered our ways to the Red Line where some guy with a green buzzcut nearly fell on top of and squished Renee. Down in the depths of the Lake station, people cheered when the trains of packed cars pulled up.

By the time we got to Caribou, I was fighting off sleepiness, so I chugged a medium-sized iced coffee…

…and fell asleep as soon as I got back to my room.

Overall, the parade was alright. I’ll have to say that the size of the crowd was almost overwhelming and I hated not being able to walk to places very easily what with all the people. But I’ll say it once and I’ll say it again: Chicago knows  how to celebrate. The smiles on people’s faces, the diversity of people sporting green, and the fun-filled atmosphere make the St. Patrick’s Day celebrations in Chicago worth experiencing.

[The night ended on a nice note, with a fun get-together in our apartment watching Robin Williams, having a few drinks, and me getting to practice my tribal-tattooing skills (Mama, I promise it’s only Sharpie marker.)]

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A Sunny Reprieve

According to Weather Channel, yesterday’s weather (low to mid 70’s, I think) as well as today’s projected high of 77 degrees are characteristic of late May and early June.

And yesterday, I threw down my pen and pushed away from my desk. No, I told myself sternly, a 20 page midterm is not worth missing out on this. I hastily assembled a bologna sandwich and left (reasoning maturely that the paper was stupid anyway). I threw on a spring-weather top, a cautious pair of black slacks and flats, and made my way to Millenium Park.

He was kind enough to let me take a picture of him. I'm such a tourist -_-

Several people had already had the same idea. College students, tourists, and business professionals sat in front of Cloud Gate to bask in the warmth and enjoy their lunch. Some weren’t convinced the weather would last long, so they were wearing Northface sweaters and overcoats. Others took the opportunity to throw on a pair of basketball shorts or capris.

The weather was beautiful, guys! If you get the chance, take your lunch outside or take a long route to work/class that gives you the chance to enjoy the outdoors a bit. I actually even convinced my practicum supervisor to let us have our meeting outside (I remember begging our high school teachers to let us do that on nice days. Sometimes it worked!)

Anyway, I’m definitely not complaining about the weather, despite some people being rather wary of it.

“I’m just waiting for it to pour snow when we’re not looking,” commented the apartment security guard, Pierre.

On a comical note, the Chicago Tribune reported that “Fashion Confusion” had struck Chicago. Oh the humanity!!

As I left Millenium Park, I saw what I thought was a lovely reflecting pool. Upon closer inspection, I found that it was the ice-skating rink that I had heard about. The ice had begun to melt.

Is Spring here to stay, or will the weather continue to have these confusing mood swings?

Meh. *throws on another springtime blouse and walks out the door, returning only to grab a sweater as a precaution*

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Irish Parade in Chicago’s Southsi— Okay no, we’re leaving.

“What?” I asked. Renee was staring at me as if she had something to say.

“Just wondering how I let you talk me into these situations.”

We were riding the Red Line down to 95/Dan Ryan to try to catch the Southside Irish Parade. The train was packed with more sketchy characters than usual. I had had a 15 minute conversation with an old man who was advertising his YouTube channel, and now our attention was being turned to a loud argument. A man who was selling chocolate bars was being shrieked at by a man/woman(?) who may have had schizophrenia. Things were getting so heated that Renee and I were hoping to get off the train as soon as possible, but were stopped by the fear of getting involved.

While I hear the Irish Parade went pretty well (save for one arrest on grounds of public urination), Renee and I didn’t leave the train stop. We looked around, turned our butts around, deciding that visiting Chicago’s charming Southside may best be experienced with a male escort, a few ninja stars, and pepperspray.

So we took the Red Line to Chinatown, and ended up in a restaurant which I will highly recommend to you now.

Won Kow is not very far from the Cermak-Chinatown stop. Just steps from the Chinatown arch, it is the oldest restaurant in Chinatown. It opened in 1928 and has been running ever since. I was highly impressed by Won Kow for these reasons:

  • Ample sitting room– The restaurant is spacious and beautiful, which is a breath of fresh air here in Chicago.
  • Efficient servers– After mere sips from your water glass, they’ll fill it up again. They’re all over the place but get your food out fast.
  • Good, cheap food– Order the potstickers. They’re not your typical, flimsy, soggy lumps. These are wrapped in a hearty, breaded shell, packed with pork, and fried to perfection. A plate (~5 pieces) of these could actually constitute a meal. The prices are phenomenally low, especially at lunchtime (11 AM – 2 PM). Won Kow has a rep of having the  “Best Fried Rice in Chicago” (and yes, it is pretty good).
  • Cheap drinks. I’m talking a variety of mixed drinks under $5! If you’ve got a low budget, you can eat until you’re full and still have enough money to get yourself buzzed.

Pickled Unicorn horns. This is why all Asians have magical ninja skills.

I’m also thrilled that I’ve found at least 5 locations to buy the 25 lb Jasmine Rice bags I like! It was quite the experience to walk into the groceries in Chinatown. There are all sorts of vegetables that you most likely can’t identify (see picture above– I still don’t know what those really are). There is fresh seafood, spices, curries, noodles, and more. I was even able to find the salted duck eggs and the eggroll wrapping I was looking for. If you need ANY ingredients for cooking Asian cuisine, wander into any of these groceries. It’s a lesson in culture and fun guessing games 🙂

Look, eels!! 😀

So overall, attempting experience the Southside Irish Parade was a failure, but we did have a great time enjoying Chinatown, its cheap prices, and some gorgeous, gorgeous Spring weather.

Won Kow Restaurant
2237 S Wentworth Ave
Chicago, IL
(312)-842-7500 

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Free Things to do in Chicago this March.

Trader Joe's, what is this nonsense?

Even the wretched 80’s techno songs upstairs can’t dampen my mood today. The sun has been shining down on the city, and despite the icy air, I enjoyed the walk to school. The sun played a horrible joke on me last week, where it shined all through my class time so I could see it (just outside the effing window), and the moment I stepped outside, the sky became overcast, wind started blowing, and the icy rain joined in the melee. Well played, Chicago winter, well played. But no, that didn’t happen today. Today, the sun is shining, and I feel a little more encouraged to go exploring again soon. And thank goodness too, I was beginning to feel like a mopey bum.

So let’s see museums are free to visit this March (according to Free Things to Do in Chicago):

The Adler Planetarium: – March 6-7

The Art Institute of Chicago – March 7, 14

Charnley-Persky House Museum – FREE guided tours are offered every Wednesday at 12 Noon. Tours are limited to 15 guests, first-come, first-served.

Chicago Children’s Museum – FREE for all visitors every Thursday, 5-8 pm. FREE on the first Sunday of each month for children 15 and under.

Chicago History Museum – None this month

Clarke House Museum – CHICAGO’S OLDEST HOUSE – March 7, 14, 21 & 28

DuSable Museum of African American Art – March 4, 11, 18, 25

Field Museum – March 1, 6

Glessner House Museum: – March 7, 14, 21 & 28

Jane Addams Hull House Museum – Free every day

Loyola University Museum of Art – March 6, 13, 20 & 27

Museum of Contemporary Art – March 6, 13, 20 & 27

Museum of Science and Industry – March 5

Museum of Surgical Science – Tuesdays

The National Museum of Mexican Art – Free Tuesdays to Sundays

Notebaert Nature Museum March 1, 8, 15, 22 & 29

Shedd Aquarium – None this month

Smart Museum of Art at University of Chicago – Free every day

Swedish American Museum – March 13

I’m particularly psyched about the Museum of Surgical Science. I grew up with a Doctor Daddy and a Nurse Mommy, and have always been interested in their fields. My college biology grade doesn’t quite reflect that (eh, it was a B. Good enough, I say.) I also want to see the Adler Planetarium, as it’s a pretty building and I’ve always been curious about it.

I hope you guys take advantage of a few of these if you’re in Chicago. Grab a few friends and jump out there!

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“Police Activity” on the Red Line + The Irish Oak

Last night, we bypassed the Grand stop on the Red Line due to “police activity”. I used my limited powers of tweet to ask what was going on. @CTAtweet sent me a link to the news story. It turns out someone was actually hit by the Red Line. They had to pull the victim out from under the train. *shivers and crosses herself* See, that’s why I’m afraid to be anywhere near those rumble-strips (the ones they put for passengers so that they don’t step unknowingly off the tracks). Within a week, I’ve heard about a woman getting raped on the Red Line (near my stop), and now someone’s gotten hit. I love me some public transit, but even I’ll have to admit that this stuff is pretty dark.

The blue paint here has raised dots that you would feel under your feet. Hopefully that brings you to attention when your spaced out and wandering about the platform. This just happens to be a picture from a story about a rooster who was stuck on the Blue Line tracks.

Unaware of the incident till much later, I went with a few good people to the Irish Oak. A quaint little Irish bar down on Clark Street, I was really impressed by the atmosphere of the Irish Oak. It’s cozy, lined with empty and signed Jameson whiskey bottles, and the staff is phenomenal. We sat down to the dulcet sounds of Switchfoot, and gave our orders to a busy but cordial waitress.

Now I am not a big fan of drinking in bars for several reasons:

  • I’m stingy.
  • I don’t like how I act when I’m tipsy or drunk. I form don’t words right.
  • I’m a lightweight. So if I order a drink, chances are I’m going to be acting funny halfway through.
  • I want to be keenly aware of my surroundings when I’m navigating the streets on the way back home. I am typically grasping my pepperspray in my pocket, so I don’t want to peg innocent people because I couldn’t aim right. If you’re gonna mess with me, I want to spray you.

She makes pepperspray look fun. Just look at that confident smile!

So while I can’t testify to how well the tenders mix their drinks, I can tell you how great the food was. A regular patron of the bar who was with us that night recommended the “Irish Oak Burger”. Guys, there was so much meat in that burger. The cheese melted over it just right, and the burger buns they use are somewhat sweet and just a little greasy (oh, my stomach just grumbled at the memory of it!) I was craving this reward for the horrible week (which involved a Thursday driven by a 5-Hour Energy shot, coffee, and tea). The fish and chips are also reportedly very good too 🙂

The flash of my phone camera makes the food look radioactive. But do you see that mound of tater-tots? Best tater-tots I've ever eaten. Time to move up a size in blue jeans.

Something else that impressed me about the place was that they had a drink size called “Fishbowls”. For those of you who don’t know what a fishbowl is, it’s typically a really, really large serving of a drink. The ones I’ve seen are usually put in a comically large snifter. This was the first time that I actually saw the drink put into a real fishbowl.

Well-sized, $20 fishbowls for those of you who can actually HOLD your liquor. (I'd probably fall over a quarter of the way through).

If you’re looking for a place to go for St. Patrick’s Day, you may want to look into this place (if there’s room, of course). Check out the food and drink menus to see if prices and drinks appeal to you. As for me, I plan to be at the parade downtown. I’m really excited to see how Chicago’s celebrations compare to Savannah’s! Does anyone have any specific St. Patrick’s Day plans?

The Irish Oak
3511 North Clark Street  

Chicago, IL 60657
(773) 935-6669

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Get up, get up, get going! – The CTA and why I love to use it.

“It’ll be worth it one day” has been my mantra over the past few weeks. I’ve been dragging myself out of bed, through the streets, into school, and into bed, hoping that I can just sleep the weekend away to make up for the sleepless school week. Many of us lead lives like this, in which we’re exhausted and overwhelmed. The freaky, sunless weather doesn’t help either. When life has begun to rake me across coals, sometimes it helps to stop and enjoy the small things in my life.

And dear friends, that brings me to the topic of my blog today: The Chicago Transit Authority, (CTA). 

When I first came to Chicago, I was psyched that public transportation was a big thing. Back at home, we have the sketchy Chatham Area Transit (CAT) buses, but because Savannah is such a spaced-out city, it was best to just have a car if possible.  This should be really neat, I thought to myself. I’ve only used subways when I visited New York or DC. What an adventure this will–

“You b****!”

On my second week in Chicago, I spun around when I heard a sickening thud on the CTA Red Line. A small woman was jumping up and down, crouched, on one of the seats. Another woman was sprawled across another set of seats, holding her cheek with a look of shock and fear on her face. People shifted uncomfortably around them as the small, jumping woman began berating the other woman for touching her. “Don’t you dare touch me!” she shrieked. “Don’t you dare f***ing touch me!” A tall black man stepped between them. “Look, you both need to calm the f*** down,” he said in a soothing voice. He turned to the woman who had been punched. “You need to calm the f*** down.” He turned to the agitated woman: “And you need to calm the f*** down. Okay?” -Red Line

I figured I would just be enjoying the convenience. I didn’t realize what sorts of things I would see. But when I did realize, I began to like the CTA even more. For even though I may be running late (hoping that the bus would just mow pedestrians down *just this once* so I wouldn’t miss my lecture), the buses and trains are wonderful sites for people-watching. Within the swelling, impatient masses of people crowding on and off the transits, there are individual stories unfolding.

Orange Line– Two college-age boys jumped on the Orange Line and announced that they were part of a singing trying to get off the ground. “And we just want you guys to know, we are not bangers!” they said in perfect unison. They performed a great duet, one of them hitting a falsetto so high that made me jerk in alarm. They finished their song as the train approached my stop, but as I exited the train, I heard a woman introducing herself to the boys, saying that she was a talent agent and was interested in representing them.

Orange Line– A young woman and a small toddler sat on the Orange Line, side by side. The toddler was bundled up in a poofy, pink jacket, barely able to move her arms. She begins to fuss, moaning quietly. The young woman beside her snapped “Shut up! I told you to shut up!” The toddler went quiet, then began to fuss again. “I can’t wait to get off this damn train,” the young woman growled, looking at the toddler. At the next stop, a man who had been sitting a few chairs down from me got up, poked the little girl’s shoe, and said “I love your shoe! Have a nice day, okay?” When the young woman and the toddler got off at the next stop, even my boyfriend (who insists children “traps”) gave the little girl a wave (sorry baby, I needed to share that cute moment.)

Bus– I stood at a the bus stop next to a rather large woman who was complaining to a stranger about how people with wheelchairs shouldn’t be using the buses. “Then we have to clear out 4 seats worth of space so they can get on,” the woman squawked, “See, they shouldn’t be using the buses. They have options. They can just– you know,  call some service to come and pick them up instead of holding the rest of us up. They really should make rules about it.” The bus finally pulled up, and when I followed her into the bus, I saw she took up three seats.

Bus— (This is my favorite story) A car driver suddenly cut my bus off at an intersection. The bus driver slammed on the breaks. I grabbed a nearby pole and stifled a scream. Half the people in the bus, however, began to rattle off a long string of loud curses. The most prominent of them all was a little old lady, hair in a bun and tucked under a sweet little hat: “”F*** that f***ing mother****er! He ****ing cut the f***ing bus off! F***er doesn’t know how to f***ing drive!! F***!!”

Blue Line– (this just happened to me tonight) A man with a cane approached me, and asked me if I knew what a violence statistic was. I asked him what it was, and he began to mumble, pulling out three $20 bills. “…but at least I got my health.” I heard him finish. “Well that’s good then.” He eyed me, then said “What are you, FBI?” “I don’t think so.” “Damn FBI. You probably are one. You’re an FBI agent!” He began to mumble again, and then proceeded to accuse me of trying to get legal status in the United States. Thankfully, around this part, we came to my stop and I exited the train.

Those are just a few of the memorable stories I have from the CTA, and people I know have even better ones. It is for witnessing interesting moments such as these that I like riding the trains and buses. I also love it when I get on a crowded bus and have to stand up front. In front of those big big windshields, and what with the crazy maneuvers the bus drivers use to get through heavy traffic, it feels like a theme park ride.
I will probably grow tired of the CTA, and all the germy, greasy, crowdedness that natives here seem to hate with a vengeance. But 6 months into my residency in Chicago, I’m still kinda digging it.
 —
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Operation Sidewinder- a play by Columbia College

I really like this image that they chose to use for their poster. You'll like the snake in the actual play even more.

A description of  Operation Sidewinder claims it is about the dehumanization through technology– a cautionary tale to people today. The play was written by Sam Shepard in 1970. In this play, a sophisticated Air Force computer in the form of a snake (called “Sidewinder”) is loose in the Mojave Desert. The plot centers around several groups of people: Hopi Indians, the armed forces, tourists, and drug dealers, and how the existence of this computer impacts their lives. The play is broken up into segments, separated by music from the 70’s era played by a live band.

My appreciation of the arts comes from when an art piece– whether it is a painting, music, or theatrical performance– evokes an emotional reaction from me. If that music can capture my joy within its notes, or if an actress’s tears drag me into pitying a fictional character, that is my determination of whether an artistic piece is beautiful, skillful, or just enjoyable.

That said, I still can’t tell you whether the play Operation Sidewinder is beautiful or shows Shepard’s artistic skills, but I’ll have to say I enjoyed it!

Here are the reasons I feel you should watch this play:

#1) See a talented cast- The talent of Columbia College really shines through this play. Though the play is marked by a few instances of over-acting, I was still laughing my heart out when the German scientist in a wheelchair decorated with gaudy German eagles (and a weakness for Altoids) began chasing another actor around the stage.  But overall, seeing this play gives you a good sampling of the talent present at Columbia.

#2) Soak in an interesting plot- I am horrible at looking at the deeper meaning of things in movies or plays (bad news for a therapist in training, huh?). That said, maybe I missed the whole “dehumanization through technology” thing. I just didn’t see it. What I did see was the struggle under an unfair system. I saw the juxtaposition between blind optimism and hopeless struggling, and I saw a re-connection with spirituality. And one hell of a weird ending that lends itself to individual interpretation. But hey, at the very least, there’s still the crazy German scientist I mentioned earlier.

#3) Appreciate an AMAZING BAND- I was most impressed by the band that plays between each segment. If you’re a fan of rock, you should really appreciate what these musicians have to offer. They demonstrate an array of different styles, tones, tempos, and moods. Daniel praised their ability to keep the bass  audible, and I thoroughly enjoyed the presence that the band carried on stage. My favorite songs they played were “CIA Man” and “Euphoria”. I’ll have to admit that they were my absolute favorite part of the play.

#4) See a glowing, robotic snake puppet– Just do it. I liked it– it flicks its tongue and is skilled with the ladies.

I really don’t want to give away too much about what happens in the play, but if you’re open-minded to plays of a…well, “different” nature, if you like rock music, are fascinated by Native American culture, or like puppetry, I recommend coming to see Operation Sidewinder at the Getz Theater. Upcoming performances are:

Wednesday, February 22 7:30pm
Thursday, February 23 7:30pm
Friday, February 24 7:30pm
Saturday, February 25 2:00pm

For more information, go to: http://www.colum.edu/theater_center/main-productions/operation-sidewinder.php

——–

Getz Theatre
72 East 11th Street
Chicago, IL
312-369-6126

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My Loopy Lullaby: Noises that make me consider moving.

As a resident and student of downtown Chicago, I almost never leave the Loop. I see it during the day when it is full of life, shopping bags, that occasional odd person, and of course, those art students with their fancy glasses and skateboards. I rarely plug into my iPod anymore when I’m walking to school because I love to take in the sound of a busy city morning.

For the night, however, is another matter entirely. A constant popuri of strange, there is always one moment in the night when my roommate and I both look up at each other, one of us inevitably asking: “What was that?” So in no particular order, here are my “favorite” night noises that I hear from my apartment at night:

#1) The L

When my parents first helped me move into my apartment, they marveled at the view I had from my window, then were instantly blown back by the loud, abrasive racket of the CTA trains passing. “How are you going to sleep at night?” they asked, genuinely concerned. “Eh, I’ll probably get used to it,” I said, “Seriously, I don’t think it’s going to be a problem.”

#2) Screaming– They come in all different durations and pitches, male voices and female voices. This isn’t just occasionally– we hear at least one every night. I’m not talking the “ooh, having fun with the gals” sort of screaming. It’s the type I don’t know how to make sense of. I told one of my security guard friends at school about this, and she said: “You need to call in and report the weird noises you’re hearing”. I told her that if I did that, I’d be calling them every five minutes. *sigh* Undergrads…

#3) Parking Garage Alarms- I don’t know who designed it, but there’s a particular one that woke both my roommate and I up on our first nights here, saying: “Are you kidding me?”. It changes sound every three or four seconds, going from a looooong moan, to the sound of a self-destructing space ship, to the wail of a police siren, to a high pitched whooping noise. There has to be at least ten different alarms in this parking garage’s arsenal. An example of when diversity is not okay.

#4) HONK HONK– SMASH-  I feel horrible, but when I heard it, I chuckled. Then hoped they were okay.

#5) Cool People with Cool Speakers- Until recently, my roommate and I got to hear and feel the bass speakers of other students permeating through the walls. I love me some Pitbull (Dale!) but really? Your cool is just too awesome for me.

 

#6) Animal Noises- I’m not talking the kind that’s usually paired with your neighbor’s mattress springs. I mean there are people who go out into the hallway and make convincing and loud animal noises. At first, it used to cheese me off. Then I started to laugh as I realized it was their way of asking to be let into someone’s room. Now I just laugh.

#7) “We’re watching My Little Pony, M************!”- ………………..I…can’t actually explain why the menacing, deep-voiced male of college age woke me up at 2 AM with this public service announcement from the hallway. I can honestly say I wish I had found out.

#8) Whatever they’re doing upstairs. It sounds like this.

While I’m thankful for such a conveniently-located, well priced living space, I’ll probably be keeping my eyes out for other options. In the meantime, I’ll be laughing at the drastic change from crickets and wild birds to the dulcet sounds of questionable activity outside the window.

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