Can’t believe it’s been a whole week

So I’ve been here a full week already, and time certainly flies when one’s having fun. After absolutely ridiculous heat the first couple of days, the weather settled in to merely very warm, rather than insanely hot. Most days it’s been low 90s F (around 30 C), but after the heat wave, it actually feels rather pleasant.

So I managed to get most of my shopping done within the first 48 hours of arriving, which feels rather nice. On Saturday, Lydia and I went into the center of Chicago and wandered through Millennium Park to the Art Institute, where we saw quite a few nice paintings (some Van Goghs included), but the most awesome exhibit there were the Thorne Miniature Rooms, which was like the most elaborate little dollhouse rooms you could imagine. In some of the rooms, there are even little unfinished pieces of embroidery, and children’s tea sets and things, and the whole thing is so very elaborate, with little gardens visible outside the windows and the most astonishing attention to detail. There were obviously no miniature servants’ quarters or you know, poor people’s houses, but it was pretty neat to see what one very rich woman in the 1930s felt was important to have reproduced for the edification of the masses.

Lydia and I were also interviewed by a journalism student, who was writing a paper on why people seem so fascinated by miniatures and small things. She was only planning on talking for a minute or two, but ended up recording us for the best end of ten minutes – so hopefully we said some insightful and interesting things. After the museum, we had lunch (because I get tetchy if not fed regularly, as people who have traveled with me before have experienced) and went shopping. A sale announcement in the window of Lane Bryant drew us inside, and I ended up buying two ridiculously flattering dresses, three tops and a skirt, most of them on sale, which was very satisfying.

We also went to Macy’s, so I could go to Lush (because I very conveniently managed to leave my nearly new pot of facial moisturizer at my Dad’s house in Sweden a week before I went to the US), and Lydia went to look for jewelry for her birthday, yet I was the one who ended up buying a necklace (which to be fair is very pretty, it’s dark amethyst with a silver and diamond clasp). I wouldn’t have got it if it hadn’t pretty much perfectly matched with the bracelet my Mum gave me for Christmas, and a combination of sales and added discounts (because the Macy’s sales staff know how to pursue a sale) meant I got an extremely good price. I’m hoping to convince my parents that they want to give it to me as a birthday present, if not – that’s why there’s MasterCard.

Sunday morning, Lydia went to church and I went to brunch at Sifu, (her friend Lisa’s knitting store) mostly so I could beg Lisa for help with decoding the crocheting pattern I got on the Friday. I got to meet a whole bunch of Lydia’s knitting circle buddies, and by the time she came to pick me up, I was actually a fair bit along with my new shawl. We went to Lincoln Square, which is at the centre of the German settlement in Chicago. Andersonville, where Lydia and Michael live, is also known as “Little Sweden”, to the point where there are Swedish flags hanging all over the place, and they even have a painted dalahäst on a street corner (see bottom of post). We saw Brave at the cinema, and it was really very sweet. As it’s not out in Norway until late August, I’m extra glad I got to see it here.

In the evening, our TV watching was rudely interrupted when Bottlecap, Lydia and Michael’s somewhat unpredictable tomcat, decided to attack my arm for no discernible reason. He seized it with one paw and slammed the other one down on my forearm with all his claws out. I reacted very quickly, and got the cat away from me, but not until he’d left some pretty nasty scratches, which bled quite a lot. Due to my super pale skin, I now also have some really nicely yellowing bruising around the scratches. It’s an attention getter, that’s for sure. The cat appears to be a lot less psycho now that Michael’s home, but I still don’t entirely trust him. He’s most likely some sort of minor demon in cat form.

Very little of note happened on Monday and Tuesday. I relaxed while Lydia was at work, and wandered around town, stopping occasionally at stores to enjoy their air conditioning. Michael arrived home from his Mum’s in Pittsburgh on Monday evening, and as I mentioned, this seems to have calmed the cat down considerably. On Wednesday, I got to meet two of Michael’s friends, Chad and Jeffrey, when Michael had to go into the University of Chicago (where he does sociology work). While Michael was busy, I wandered around campus, visited the very nice little ancient history exhibition at the Oriental Institute, but mostly relaxed on a park bench in the shade with a book. We ran a bunch of errands around town, and Michael and Jeffrey took me to a barbecue place for lunch, where I had a gigantic pulled pork sandwich (apparently this is a perfectly standard size, but American portions are LARGE), which pretty much kept me satisfied for the rest of the day. We picked up Lydia from work, and Jeffrey, Lydia and I went to the Andersonville farmers’ market before dinner, which was very nicely laid out, and had a lot of free samples. Always a bonus.

Today I took the bus all by myself (I know, very adventurous) to the Chicago History Museum, where Lydia works. We had lunch together and did some shopping, and I browsed the various exhibits (I’ve now seen the bed Lincoln died in) while waiting for Lydia to finish work. On the way home, we stopped at a games’ store, so I could pick up Gloom, because after seeing it on TableTop, it looks like a game after my own heart.

So tomorrow morning I pack up all my things, and go off to meet the other participants of the course. We’re going to be staying at Palmer House Hilton, where I’ve promised Lydia I will try to get her tiny jam jars from the hotel breakfast buffet, if they have any. I have a couple of additional days in Chicago, then it’s off to Decorah.

Picture I found of the Swedish horse on Google. The person hanging over the horse is NOT someone I’ve ever met.

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I have arrived!

So I have arrived and spent a bit more than 24 hours in the States. The first hour involved a stupidly long queue to get through passport and immigration control. In between leaving my seat on the flight and meeting Lydia at the Arrivals gate, I think 6 different people needed to see my passport. Not entirely sure why we had to show our passports upon entering AND exiting the air craft, I’m pretty sure few people change identities while on the plane. But one doesn’t quarrel with customs officials.
We took the train and a taxi back to Lydia’s flat, where I was able to change into something less warm (the knee high support socks to avoid blod clots on the plane were especially unnecessary in the heat). We went out for dinner, even though I was rather tired (obviously couldn’t sleep on the flight, there were movies to watch – I saw 21 Jump Street, We Bought A Zoo and John Carter). We went to a gourmet pub and had mussles and chips, Belgian style. Very tasty.
I slept like a log on Lydia’s sofa and tried to avoid going outside into the sweltering heat for the longest time, while Lydia was at work. I had a shower, I had breakfast while Skyping with Mark (multi-tasking), I caught up on e-mail and Facebook, read AND watched an episode of The Good Wife (it’s set in Chicago, it’s suitable). Finally, I had to brave the heat. It was, according to the news, 114 degrees Fahrenheit. That’s 45 degrees Celcius, and just crazy warm. They apparently had to close off some of the roads downtown midday because the surface was bubbling. So I went into a lot of shops, simply to cool off.
I ended up in the local shoe shop, lured by the sight of purple Ecco sandals (on sale!) in the window. A very nice shop clerk fetched pretty much all the Ecco shoes they had in my size, which is how I ended up with not one, but two pairs of new sandals, less than 24 hours after landing in America. Pretty much why credit cards were invented. Pictures of the purchases will follow in a later post.
When Lydia finally got back from work, we went to her friend’s knitting shop, where they have a sci-fi crafts circle every Friday. It was really nice. We had pizza, and watched Time after Time, a movie where Malcolm McDowell plays H.G. Wells, who has to chase Jack the Ripper to San Fransisco in 1979, after the serial killer steals the time machine Wells just invented. There was a lot of quality heckling, but the film was fun. I’m sorry I’m going to miss the next two Fridays, when they’ll be doing Serenity and Terminator. I bought two balls of yarn, intending to crochet a new thin shawl, but was unable to watch a film and crochet at the same time. I’m also going to have to go back tomorrow, because I’m so rubbish at reading pattern instructions that I need Lisa to tell me what to do, or I just wasted nearly 50 dollars on something I can’t use.
Tomorrow Lydia and I are going to a nicely air-conditioned art gallery (I’ve been promised Van Gogh) and to do some shopping. Hopefully it won’t be too insanely hot out.

Getting ready

So tomorrow I fly to Chicago, to be away from the husband for a whole month. It’s the longest we’ve been apart since I lived in Norway and he lived in the UK. I’m sure it will be fine, but right now, it feels a bit scary and daunting.

Today I have been packing, and tidying, in between my many busy moments of procrastinating so as to not have to tidy and/or pack. I love travelling, but I absolutely hate packing.  I put off packing for as long as possible. I put all manner of books I may want to read in the next month on my E-reader. I filled my shiny new Ipad full of entertainment. I’ve located my passport, printed out my ticket confirmation, booked my seat on the airport bus, extended the credit on the MasterCard and made sure that all my insurance is in order (I would never set foot in the USA without making very sure that I had valid travel insurance). There should be an app or some sort of special button that you could press, and all the things you need magically appeared neatly folded in your suitcase. Since that is not the case, I’ve been reading the weather forecast and making packing lists, and the day before yesterday, I finally went down to the basement to fetch my suitcase. Which, once I dragged it up five flights of stairs, turned out to weigh 5.5 kgs (12.1 lbs). So before I’d even put a thing in it, it took up about a fifth of my total luggage allowance. It also handles like a particularly unwieldy brick. There was really nothing to do, but to go out and buy myself a new suitcase.

The new suitcase. The colour is called “raspberry”.

The old suitcase (although mine was navy with ofdifferent coloured handles)

The new suitcase is fabric, weighs nearly half of the old one (which has now been consigned to languishing away in the basement again), and because of the four wheels on the bottom, is really easy to move around. I’ve now left about a third of space in the case for all the wonderful things I will no doubt purchase and bring back with me from the States.

In addition to packing, I’ve probably done my own weight in laundry, and kept my promise to the husband – the bedroom is now so tidy that I would happily let any guest – even our parents – see it.  That’s quite an achievement, as some of my friends, who did happen to see it in various stages of horrible mess will be able to testify. Once the living room is tidy, I can fly off to the States, and when I return, we’ll see if the flat is constantly messy because of me, or if the husband, left to his own devices in an empty flat, is also a horrible housekeeper. I suspect the latter, he is sure he’ll be able to prove the former.

I’m going to try to make this a travel blog during my journey – but it will depend on access to computers, and enough free time. I’m not bringing my own laptop, I’m hoping that the Ipad will suffice for my communications needs. There will obviously be at least one computer I can borrow at Lydia and Michael’s in Chicago, and I know we have access to campus computers at Luther College in Iowa, so watch this space for updates on my month in the US of A.