I'm sitting in a winter wonderland. Eight inches of snow have fallen today and more is expected overnight. Tomorrow I'm supposed to fly out of O'Hare at noon and had grand ambitions to take the El train the whole way, but those have been changed, instead Rachel will give me a ride to the airport in the morning. Apparently, it wouldn't be easy to roll my 50 lb. suitcase through a foot of snow. I recently learned that El is short for Elevated...I think someone misguided me in saying that the route was shaped like an L.
While sitting comfortably in warm California, I've heard of long delays at O'Hare, and from what my friends here tell me, tomorrow I'll become one of thousands looking at the flashing 'Delayed' and 'Cancelled' next to my United flight number. We shall see...
This trip to the MidWest has been much needed. I started in Colorado (is that technically the MidWest?) and worked for 3 days at the Tedder's dining room table. We worked, took a walk, worked, drank a latte and played ping pong, worked, ate Mexican, worked, then watched America's Funniest Home Videos. I can't help it, I love that show. Call it slap-stick, but I just can't get enough of the montages of falling people. The Tedder's view of the Rockies, their hot tub in the snow, and Mark's barista skills always make for an enjoyable time. It's honestly a pleasure to work for them and I'm excited to be a part of The Door project. http://www.marktedder.com I can't help it, I had to post the website...it's my job.
From Colorado Springs, I went to Denver and was able to spend some time with Ryan and Amanda. They're newlyweds and a great compliment to each other. To know them is to love them. Amanda took me to the airport in the morning, and from there I flew to...
Chicago! What a city. Rachel, my China roommate for a year and an aspiring writer, picked me up from the airport. I secretly hope to be in one of her books someday. She assures me that traces of my personality will be found in a character, but I'm lobbying for more. In the morning we met a group of friends at Egglectic in downtown Wheaton. I mistakenly called it Eggcelent a couple of times, which made Rachel chuckle. And it was there that I was reunited with Mikayla. I had never used the cliche of "you're like a sister to me" until I met Mikayla. We somehow turn the most mundane activities (lesson planning, waiting, performances, bus rides) into laughter and pure joy. She shares my love for accents, for the world, and for odd topics. I spent every day for a year with her and hadn't seen her for a year and half! In that time she had gotten married, and I was able to meet her husband Erik. Also at breakfast were Kathy Kastner (music professor extraordinaire and culture junkie!) and Nita Martindale (the Beijing hostess with the most). We talked about Tibet, about Twitter and updated each other as we ate our scrambles and crepes. As I walked away, I wished that we could all meet at Egglectic weekly, I have so much to learn from everyone at the table.
Next, we headed into the city. Rachel, Mikayla and I took the El into the heart of Chicago. We took pictures at the Bean, watched people ice-skate, went shopping on State Street, and had a late lunch at The Walnut Room in Macy's. The day ended with The Blue Man Group. We ushered the show to get in free, which was a genius move on Rachel's part. Mikayla and I intended on speaking in British accents, but it seemed the tables were turned on me. An interesting BMG employee would come near me and politely ask, "How's it going?" and then in a raspy voice "Hellllo preeetttty". At first I thought I was hearing things. But just a couple minutes later he came to get a booster seat for a child. He said nicely, "I'm just going to grab this..." and then in a deep grunt "Hiiiii Dolly." I signaled to Mikayla across the room that he was talking strange and gave her an awkward face, but she just waved and danced to the music playing. After cleaning up all the paper towels used in the show, we went to Giordano's. We reminisced and laughed our way through a deep dish pizza.
The next day we drove to Mikayla's house in northern Wisconsin. It was at this point that I felt as though I entered another country. I wish I could pinpoint why Wisconsin felt so foreign. Perhaps it was the large metal cows? Or more cheese signs than gas station signs? Either way, I felt the need to take pictures and document the culture.
Mikayla and Erik were gracious hosts and we were even able to see them sing in the choir of Handel's Messiah. An interesting fact, the reason that everyone stands during "Hallelujah" is because in the first performance the King of England stood. Such an educational trip this has turned out to be. Katie Wilson drove all the way from Minneapolis and we were reunited. Ah, how I've missed Katie. She drove 5 hours to spend a day with us, and I felt so loved. We all played Balderdash late into the night.
I could keep listing the fun things we did together, but I think I'll end here. The point is, I needed the MidWest. I needed the microbrews, the long talks, the cheese curds, the cross-stitching of ornaments, and the late night Balderdash. In many ways, being here with these good friends in the middle of snowy prairie land has felt more like home than California. I had no idea that the MidWest could be so...so...great. And I feel like an ignorant fool for the way I've judged it in the past. Seriously though, Wisconsin feels like another country. Trust me.