Election day

Trip Start Aug 07, 2008
Trip End Aug 12, 2009

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Flag of United States  , Illinois
Wednesday, November 5, 2008

I am currently sitting in a cafe in downtown Chicago, taking advantage of the free wireless before I go next door to the Ford Center for the Performing Arts to see Wicked. They're having a special tonight, any seat in the house for $44 since we're electing our 44th president, which is a deal I couldn't pass up. Especially because I couldn't get a ticket for the Obama rally, so I figured I'd go see a play and then head over to Grant Park after (just a few blocks southeast) to see what I can see from behind the fences and security perimeter. Three of my roommates got tickets (from co-workers and friends from college), so I will hear from them later how it went inside the park. The entire city of Chicago is abuzz. Even the kids at school were asking me if I'd voted yet, so I got to explain to them what an absentee ballot is and how I sent mine in last week to Seattle. I got off the train downtown earlier and walked right by the tall glass windows that showcase ABC Chicago and saw several of their reporters getting ready for the long night of coverage. In Illinois, people can vote early, which is something I've never experienced before. These past two weeks, up until Thursday the 30th, people cast more than three quarters of a million votes, according to this morning's Chicago Tribune. Last week I dropped by our local library to pick up "It's a Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown" and the line for voting was out the library door and halfway down the block! On my way in, I overheard a lady on her cell phone say she'd been standing there for nearly an hour.

This has been a full week because of celebrating Halloween and my 22nd birthday too. Actually it's been a full month of October...which is why it's taken me til November to write this entry! Overnight it seems (ok well maybe over the month :), the leaves have changed colors and fallen to the ground and the wind has picked up. Let me tell you, this city truly earns its Windy City nickname...every time I walk outside it's like I stepped out on the upper deck of a ferry. My hair goes all over the place and it's all I can do to get a decent breath that's not icy cold. And it's not even that far into November. At least I am outfitted with scarves, which I have taken to wrapping around my head/neck, a down jacket, waterproof boots, and long underwear. According to my roommate from Minnesota, her trick is to wear her long underwear every day under whatever outfit she has on! The last couple of days we've had a warm spell though, with today reaching a balmy 70 degrees and us having to turn off the heat in our apartment over the weekend. It's not supposed to last of course, as Friday calls for a high of 39 degrees and a wind chill factor of who knows what.

Each weekend this month I've taken an adventure around the city. I usually start out needing to run errands of some sort...going to the bank or Target or the library...then it just sort of evolves from there. On my birthday last Saturday I went to Lincoln Park, walking by the ponds, a farmer's market, the zoo, the conservatory, and ending up at the Chicago History Museum at the south end. I got in free because Bank of America has a promotion where the first weekend of every month is free at several museums around the country, so I just walked in and showed them my debit card and they printed me up a free ticket. Next I went to the Newberry Library where they had an exhibit on children's literature through the ages, and all the books on display are from their extensive collection. It was very well curated and featured books from as far back as the fifteenth century, including the first illustrated edition of Aesop's fables, the first edition of Alice in Wonderland, and several books in French. Those of you who remember my PLU Capstone paper and topic can probably guess I spent a lot of time looking at that exhibit! The only disappointing part was not being able to pick up the books and flip through them, as only one two-page spread was displayed under the plexiglass. I got spoiled being able to do that with old books in my PLU publishing and printing classes.

Another weekend I went thrift store shopping, because we needed some things for our apartment like a wall clock, a butter dish, some measuring cups, etc. I ended up going to two Salvation Armys, one of which was two stories tall, a Brown Elephant, our local Village Discount (about five blocks from our apartment), a Plato's Closet, and three dollar stores. After much shelf-scouring I found everything we needed and my roommates were quite impressed! I take the bus or train or walk everywhere, and my record for one day is four different buses, two train rides, and a lot of walking. It's fun to take new bus routes through neighborhoods I haven't been in, and I spend the whole time looking out the windows on both sides to see what is there. This is how I discovered the Trader Joe's near our house, one of the Salvation Armys, my favorite coffee shop, and much more. I'm getting so my roommates know to ask me where the closest whatever is, and I can tell them how to get there because I saw it out the window at some point during my adventures.

As much as I love public transportation, the occasional car ride I get is a treat. Last weekend I rode with a couple other folks from my school out to Arlington Heights, northwest of the city, for a baby shower for the 4th grade teacher. This was my first time "out in the suburbs," as they like to say here, and it was kind of a shock after spending the last two plus months in dense, urban Chicago. I had forgotten what space looks like, how houses can have huge yards and big box stores can sprawl across strip malls and there is just so much emptiness. I am used to tall buildings that cramp next to each other with barely a strip of alley in between. My other car ride came on Halloween, when the tech support guy from school gave me a ride home. I was packing up my stuff for the day, and I had a huge bunch of balloons, a bag full of candy, and a box full of rolls leftover from the cafeteria (I've made friends with the lunch ladies and they give me the extra food at the end of the week to share with my roommates). Our tech support guy took one look at me and was like, you aren't riding the bus like that! Well I certainly wasn't looking forward to the looks from the person next to me on the bus as balloons bumped their head and a cardboard box overlapped onto their space. So I took him up on the offer and it took less than half the time to get home than it does on the bus, and we even hig traffic on the freeway! Which reminds me, they don't call them freeways around here. I have gotten more blank stares, as people figure out that what I'm really talking about when I say freeway is an "expressway" according to them. Although most of the time, Chicagoans don't even say expressway, they call it by its name. That's right, they name freeways around here. There's the Dan Ryan, the Kennedy, the Eisenhower. That one runs right by my school, and one time I got a phone call from someone trying to figure out how to get to school. "You're just south of the Eisenhower, right?" this person asks me. I'm sitting there on the phone, wracking my brain, trying to remember where I saw a statue or a monument of Ike, or even just a road named after him, considering along my commute we cross roads named Franklin, Washington, Madison, Monroe, Adams, Jackson, Van Buren, Congress, Harrison, and Polk, and Roosevelt two blocks south of school. But no, Eisenhower is the name of their freeway. Oh another reason they don't call them freeways is because most aren't free. There are tolls all over the place.

In addition to fixing my interstate language, I am getting used to the phrase "I stay" for "I live." People I run into at school or that I meet around the city always ask me "Where do you stay?" And I'm thinking, stay? I'm not in a hotel, and I'm not on vacation. But I live in Albany Park. And then they'll say something like, "oh yeah, I used to stay [live] over on Pulaski and Montrose [which is close to us]." The students at school have also been teaching me all kinds of slang. I can't figure out if these words are unique to Chicago, or if they're just commonplace for a generation of youth that I'm no longer a part of. There's "raw", which I think is the new "cool." It's used like "Miss Dunning, did you see me? I was so raw!" which Arianna asked me after I watched her make a freethrow in the 5th & 6th grade basketball game. Or it can be like "that's so raw" in regards to a product or event. "Tweakin" is kind of like "freakin," as in, "it's ok, don't be tweakin' out." And there's the classic, which I hear at least a dozen times a day: "Miss Dunning, I gotta USE it!" which the first time a student asked me that, I replied, use what?! Come to find out, it's their way of saying I have to go to the bathroom. It's nice and concise, for example I'll announce to my kindergartners, "ok you better go use it before we go out to the playground" and they totally understand what I mean.

Kindergartners simultaneously provide the most joy and the most challenges in my day. I spend an hour with them every morning, doing activities with different groups the teacher gives me. Sometimes it's the smarter kids, who whip through a matching upper-case and lower-case letters game, and sometimes it's the kids who need extra help, who spend nearly our entire time together trying to decipher the difference between the b, d, p, and q. I then see them all at lunch in the cafeteria, where I spend my time opening lots of milk and ketchup packets, which are hard for little fingers. And then three days a week I get to hang out with seven of them in the After School Program for an hour helping them with homework. Well the homework part doesn't last too long, considering it usually consists of writing the letter of the week about a dozen times, and sometimes another sheet on patterns or numbers or shapes. So they finish in about 10 minutes and we have the rest of the time to color, use play dough, do a puzzle, or go out to the playground. The student who has given me the most behavioral trouble over the past couple of weeks also provided me with the ingenious solution to his antics. One afternoon when I was thoroughly exasperated, I just sat down and said, Marcellous, how can we make this behavior change? Do you have any ideas? These were just rhetorical questions, but lo and behold he told me, "Miss Dunning, if anyone is being bad, you just write their name on the board, and then if they're bad some more, you put a check mark, and then another one, and if you have two checkmarks then you have to sit in the office while we go out to the playground." Well this system is working wonderfully, and I really can't take any credit for it. It's great to just say "oh Marcellous, I sure hope you're using your indoor voice so I don't have to write your name on the board" or "Kaliyah please show me how we sit in our chairs so I don't have to add a checkmark to your name."

Life in our apartment is going well too. I am so fortunate to have such down to earth roommates. We have a lot of fun together and can spend entire evenings having discussions on everything under the sun. More often than not we sit around the dinner table long after dinner is over. Last night I made pumpkin soup for my meal, and it turned out great. I love pumpkin anything though, so I thought it would be fun to try soup. So far this season I've had a pumpkin latte at Starbucks, pumpkin chai tea at Argo Tea (only in Chicago), pumpkin ice cream at Coldstone, a pumpkin donut at Dunkin' Donuts, and pumpkin seeds, which I buy at the Mexican produce shop across the street from our apartment in bags labeled "pepitas." I read in the Chicago Tribune that Illinois actually ranks first among pumpkin-producing states, and further south in Morton, IL they call themselves the pumpkin capital of the world. Most of the canned pumpkin consumed in the US is processed there. So I'm just doing my adopted-state duty.

Speaking of states, the electoral map is being colored in and Wicked is going to start soon so I better add photos to this entry and head out. Hope everyone is doing well and please know that I think of you all often!
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lrozelle on

Hi Heather
Fun to read your latest entry tonight knowing you're so close to the action on election night. Hope you like Wicked. I've been wanting to go. Tell me if you enjoyed. So will you be up late tonight. Your kids are funny; you have a wealth of experiences already adding up. I so relate with your school days. You sound like a seasoned teacher!
Love you lots,
Aunt Lori

taiscealai on

Love the update!
Heather, I really want to come see you! Your photos and descriptions are amazing and make me want to be there right now. The kiddos are too cute! Love the pumpkins and pumpkin seeds.

Have a wonderful rest of your week! It was great talking with you earlier :)

Love you friend!

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