Letters From America 2.1

greetings lovely ones from the glorious fall colours of indiana

well i’ve officially been here a week and it’s definitely time for a bit of a catch up on the journey so far..
for those of you with way too much to do today.. here are the highlights

1. Nightime Chicagoland is beautiful.
2. You can get a whole workout at O’Hare International.
3. Airport shuttles are a great way to get local advisory on the city.
4. The accent still works wonders for favours, freebies, smiles and general all round goodwill.

After an enormous 36 hours in transit, I finally got to Chicago at about 7pm last Thursday night, in admist a massive lightning storm and unseasonal winds. Usually Chicago is called the Windy City in reference to some hot-winded politicians of last century, but in this instance, the winds were really warm and there were a bunch of tornados over the state the same night I arrived.

I checked in downtown and pretty much headed out to walk the streets straight away. Having not really had a chance to walk about Chicago by night last time, it was pretty blurry trying to orient myself in the midst of jetlag and the redeveloped front end of the Plaza but I managed to find my way to a oldstyle grocery that curved its way through the downstairs basements of three buildings on N.Michigan. I walked all the way down to Millenium Park, taking note that there were homeless people on just about every corner. Even in New York, there wasn’t the same prolification of homeless around. It was a constant theme of the next day also, the same 30 or people strewn along Michigan Ave in the area of where I was staying. Sobering to see the tourists and professionals bustling past them in the midst of a lunchhour shopping rush into Bloomingdales and Macys.

I could rave on and on about Chicago – I think it’s one of my favourite cities – but instead I’ll just save it for later. Heading out to Hoffman Estates, I transferred hotels and settled in for the Passion conference, the first of my stops. Ridiculously enough, my hotel was surrounded by restaurants, shopping centres and movie theatres but I couldn’t get to a single one, because the four lane highway doesn’t have a single crossing, nor do Americans favour sidewalks – at best you’ll only ever find one side of the road traversable!

Managed to connect with a bunch of folks at Passion and sort myself out for rides most places, when I didn’t want to walk. There’s not too much to say about the event itself that wouldn’t be boring for half of you and make the other half ridiculously envious.. so i’ll leave it at that. Saturday night I met Joshua, a Chicagoland native who graciously took me to Willow the next morning, where we then had lunch with Emmanuel (from Ghana, moved to Chicago when he was a kid), Lee and Fabbio (both pastors & college leaders from Sao Paulo, Brazil). It was a magic time talking and laughing, sharing stories through language, accents and general hilarity.

At best, I’m a raver and it takes me ten minutes to tell what ought to be a 2min anecdote, so you can imagine how long some of my best stories took this time around. Gulp.. but there was much trading of phone numbers, contact details and emails, promises to talk and communicate more and an open invitation to visit Sao Paulo anytime. I think we were all pretty excited about that, considering that Josh has been travelling to South America once a year for the past little while.

O’Hare International is a stunning place. Especially when you’re flying United and you get to enjoy the concourses. I was lucky enough to land at sunset on arrival, seeing the concourses stand like a grand glass palisade on their north-south axis. The use of glass, steel and light both in the concourses and the underground tunnel is a bold statement to life, and the triumph of technology that sees us lift into the sky. Every line of design and construction leads your eye always upward to the sky, reminding you that you are part of the airborne story yourself. In addition.. just walking laps of the concourses whilst waiting for your plane will take you just over an hour and burn off every calorie of the rich, over-laden airport food. I remain convinced that there is no smell on this earth like the nutty, sugary, cinnamon and coffee sweet aroma of the United terminal.. where everything smells so strong that you taste it in the back of your mouth before you even see it.

My flight into Indianapolis was slightly delayed.. I was grandly amused to be sitting waiting to board at the gate, when 4, 5 and then the 6th fire appliance went racing past the windows, lights flaring in the falling darkness. Then about 15 minutes later they all came back, same lights flaring but at a slightly slower pace. I was slightly disturbed that I seemed to be the only one that noticed both trips – so one can’t be too surprised that the security measures I expected to be so intense, have actually been fairly cruisy so far.

The unseasonal warmth throughout Illinois had spread to Indiana, but now it seems to be cooling off. The colours of the leaves are crisp and golden, the sun doesn’t rise properly until about 8am and falls off the horizon around 8pm at night. The daylight savings time is coming to an end, but in the meantime everything seems to get bumped up a notch in colour and hue. The smell of the grass and sun is almost as fragrant as the port magnolia at home. It’s nice just to get outside and breathe in the air of the place, although seven days on I still feel a little bit wobbly on my legs. The trucks around here have broad flanks, gleaming chrome and rust spots that would never make it through inspection back home. The flags are flying, both for the Indiana Colts and the Stars and Stripes. Fall Harvest festival is in full swing – which finishes with Halloween next week. There are pumpkins, lights and decorations everywhere and local radio 93.1 is in the midst of their 93 days of Christmas songs. Everything is golden, orange, red and autumny.

I think there’s something about the changes of pressure or whatever .. that for the first time I’m really reorienting myself in this body of mine! But the walking helps. The coffee doesn’t. Andy, I can’t wait to get home for the beans.

Meanwhile… that probably wraps up everything exciting I have to say for now. Goff, I’ve found your treats and I’m bringing ’em home.
You’ll all be waking up real soon – enjoy Friday. Tomorrow I’m going horse-racing.

If you’ve caught up on the California fires – reports here are rife now about arsonists with Al Quaeda connections, as well as the hundreds of thousands affected. Thankfully when I last heard, marko and jeannie (who I’m staying with in San Diego in about 10days) haven’t had to evacuate. Prayers appreciated for that part of the world though.

What do you think?