Our final day in Chicago.. Finally

OK OK I have been out of touch for some time now, and I have to apologize to both my followers (hi mum and dad) and myself.. Because precious memories and details are no doubt going to have been lost in my time away from the blog.

But lets just start off where I left off…

So in my final day in Chicago I knew I was going to have to commit to waking up early and running about like a mad woman for the large part of the day, in order to be able to actually fit in all of the activities I had so far listed in my mind but not had the time to actually complete.

And I damn well proved my commitment. I woke up first in the house, showered and was out the door before the others were even registering that the morning had broken (OK it was like 9am and there had been some very casual drinking the night before that encouraged everyone to stay in bed ‘just one hour longer’..). I jumped on the train (which by day three had been skillfully mastered) and headed in to the city, then jumped on a bus and headed out South to visit the Chicago Museum of Science and Industry – Stop One.

I really do have to mention the friendliness of the public transport workers in Chicago at this point… because of course, I didn’t know exactly which bus to take to get out there (and it was no short distance away, so I was actually expecting to have to transfer at some point), but the bus drivers who I asked for help were CONSISTENTLY wonderful to me throughout this final day (in which public transport was fully utilized to save me time and maximize sight seeing) and without fail, pointed me in the right direction at every point of contact.

So anyway – I arrived at Stop One perhaps an hour after leaving the house, and again, this place was a beautiful old, powerful looking  building at the end of a cul-de-sac, sitting in a perfectly groomed green field and adorned with the American flag.

Stop one 2 Stop One

And inside… this place was like the most magically crafted institute of learning I have ever witnessed. 3 MASSIVE floors of the most extreme and interactive science and industry (quite surprisingly, a lot of farming) exhibits I have ever seen! To give you an idea of the scale of this place, because even the photos of the exterior don’t do it justice.. it features an actual WHOLE submarine, several war-planes a tractor and a train.

Stop One 4 Stop One 7

But the real point-of-awe… A storm simulation center, where they actually produce indoor hurricanes! and lightning storms!? and I cannot believe I somehow don’t have any photos of this.. but it was madness! I cannot stress once again, how the scale of EVERYTHING is so much magnified in America – They just do not hold back.

But my favorite exhibits (I really don’t think the word exhibit applies to these massive rooms of wonder..) would have to include a giant fairy castle/doll house which took up a small room in itself and was designed down to the detail to include several rooms furnished delicately with set tables and dressers and was just plain gorgeous.

Stop One 5

And also, a ‘human body’ themed floor, which actually included several dissected human bodies, sliced down to just the nerves, just the blood vessels or just a thin slice of a man who once walked among us. AND had several pre-birth fetuses through to fully-developed babies, encased and preserved forever in gel and glass, so that you could walk along and see exactly how a human develops within the womb.

Stop One 8

I can only assume that all of these babies were all still-births, or that something happened to the mothers before the birth could be completed, which made the whole thing quite tragic in my eyes. I even think that some of them were likely going to be born disabled, and maybe the parents knew that before the birth had to be done.. But regardless, there is something every eerie about being able to look inside the human body and look into human development this visually.  And I absolutely scrutinized every one of them, with a morbid fascination. Ive course what was even sadder was walking alongside this exhibit behind 2 little girls who were totally grossed out by the whole thing and thought they all look hideous – how crazy to think that in 20 years time they might be carrying children of their own and suddenly have quite a spiritual connection to this room and the lives that have been lost but preserved and put on display forever in the name of science.

OH! and I got to watch quite an interesting show on D-Day! Which I really did enjoy. War is another one of those morbid, but addictive and fascinating topics that I love to get right into – both wars in the past and in the present. And learning about how much planning went into that largely successful landing on D-day could be taken as somewhat of a personal life lesson as well.. Fact of the day though! – German Tiger-tanks were one of the great downfalls to the US/UK side during war time, and because the Germans simply knew how to develop their tanks with more advanced armor and weaponry, these caused significant damage and huge losses to the opposing side (our side). I love this fact, because growing up in a western country which is influenced all too much by America and its ideals (and of course contributed a little to the US/UK side at the time).. These facts which are, really pro-German are not the ones you hear about in school. Everyone likes to pretend like winning the war was straight forward, and a predetermined outcome where one side is good and the other is bad, but that’s just not how it is in reality. And we can all say that the Germans were wrong now, and hate them for their innovations… But the truth is, in some aspects they WERE more clever…

This was also a really fun fact to apply to a movie we went and saw recently as well- called Fury which is about the same war, and involves a scene where 4 US tanks are lost to 1 German Tiger.I love it when film makers research and direct based on the little known facts.

Aaaaand after our trip to the planetarium the previous day, I only briefly paused in the ‘space exhibition’ room, where you could get caught up in the excitement that was experienced in the streets (in a time when people didn’t have televisions of their own in their homes yet) as the landing progress was aired publicly and internationally several years ago. However it wasn’t all heroism and ease for them either.. Actually what was particularly gross, was the food they had to take up with them… I do not envy them for this salad..

Stop One 3

AND there was even a chick hatchery! (this one would also be added to my favorites if I didn’t feel SO sorry for the tiny little chicks, all new to the world and no doubt bewildered by the many many ugly human faces that were tapping on the glass and begging them for attention – I hate human children). I did actually panic that a couple of them were dead.. But turns out (after close examination) they were breathing and had actually, only-just hatched out into the world.

Stop One 9

AND THEN having had a tight schedule for the day I had to leave this place of wonder all too soon.. and I’m very aware of how much I must have missed out on.. BUT there were other places to see and other things to do! SO it was off to Stop Two – The Chicago Field Museum.

This museum was located back in the city and was actually right next door to the aquarium that I visited the previous day.. Its just that I could never have caught it before closing any earlier than on this final day. So I finally made it inside this time, and first thing on the agenda was to have some lunch.. During this stay in its entirety it is very fair to say that we ALL had to put hunger on hold for 3 days to make sure we could fit in as much sight seeing (and for all of the other girls – shopping) as was possible. So I scoffed down a sandwich while a giant T-Rex watched me..

T rex

And then I went to explore!

I ended up getting way too caught up in an evolution exhibition which was set up like a walk-through maze, which began in the very very pre-dinosaur early days of the eartha history (where no life existed), and then progressed slowly through to the present (passing dinosaurs and the ice age on the way). And I stopped off to watch a 3D movie on the ice age on my way through.

Of course the history of the earth is a sad one, with constant generation-extinction-regeneration patterns. But the scariest part was reaching the end of the tunnel and being notified that the most recent mass-extinction, the one which has involved the greatest loss of bio-diversity and species is – happening right now. And for the first time in our long, long history it is being caused by the domination of one species alone; not by the natural environment and matters ‘out of our hands’. Humans are the worst, most collectively selfish species that the earth has ever allowed to continue exist. And while we can look back on wholly mammoths and saber tooth tigers and dinosaurs and think ‘oh what a shame, it was never meant to be for them’ – we will not be able to do the same tomorrow, when we look back at the beautiful, often harmless creatures that we have driven to extinction with our exorbitant expansion, capitalism, industrialization and unsustainable development for today..

So it was time for me to leave that exhibit before I began punching innocent bystanders in the face.. And I was really proud to find, in the ‘Green stone room’ next door, there was a special place reserved for New Zealand! (actually its more amazing how many ancient cultures really treasured green stone)

green

And downstairs in the ‘Pacific’ exhibition I got to walk through several of the island cultures, and again was overwhelmed and made home-sick by the presence of a full-scale marae, set up all alone in its own space.

Maori

How wonderful it is to find ‘wee-ol’ New Zealand being represented within the massive space of the USA.

Also downstairs I also found a particularly creepy exhibition of the underground world (not drug trafficking and prostitution, but the actual mud and roots and bugs kind of underground). Which I can admit, I was actually too afraid to walk through by myself.. It had all kinds of massive cockroaches and creepy things that popped out at you (‘protecting their eggs’) as you walked through.. And the  constant drip sound of water being filtered down from the earth above.. So I just milled about casually and waited for an unsuspecting couple to walk through ahead of me..

And then, somehow it was closing time and I had to quickly rush through the last couple exhibits (Egyptians and Jamaicans) before I was locked in for the night.

So as i entered back into the outside world (wet as it was) I decided I would wander down to the Navy Pier (recommended last-minute by an old friend) in the growing darkness, before the opportunity was lost.

This was quite a decent walk away, but I could make the whole trip along the lake front, and although the sky was still grey and there was a little bit of a chill in the air, the rain had stopped and the lake water was calm for the deserted sail boats that bobbed on its surface. So I took the time to dawdle (shoes off) and capture some of the maritime scene with my camera (which now have no lens cap for – thanks to the hectic atmosphere that was stilled in the background of this whole trip).

boat boats

And I walked most of the way behind a family of four which particularly soothed my soul. The two children running circles around their parents, who had not a single complaint, but walked hand-in-hand along the water front exchanging quiet, private chatter between themselves.

But eventually I had to leave the water and cross a seedy motorway bridge to make the final leg of the journey. And this part scared me almost to death.. To get up on to the bridge I had to walk down an small back street where a small group of teenagers (maybe just younger than me) were just loitering about (as teenagers do). Then I had to climb a few twisting steps up an alleyway that was.. quite derelict.  Needless to say I was a little on edge, with an awareness of strangers behind me and a growing darkness generally spreading across the sky as I entered a stairway, where quite honestly, any one could have jumped out from around the next corner, and would have provided a cozy, private place for a homeless man or a drug dealer…. So when I go to the top of the stairs and found a body lying covered by a grey blanket just in front of me, and only slightly off to the side of the path that I needed to follow panic coursed through me… After a brief hesitation, and realization I wasn’t going back down those stairs, I walked forward very delicately and gently skipped alongside the sleeping homeless and ran out into the openness and publicity of the busy bridge traffic. Relief.. Then all I had to do was walk briskly alongside the cars and I would end up at the foot of the pier. But suddenly there were hurried footsteps behind me! RUNNING footsteps! and in the briefest of glances over my shoulder, my eyes told my mind that a man approximately my size was running towards me in a hooded jersey! And my whole body leaped internally. A SHOCK of fear like I have never had to experience flew through my veins.. And it must have read loud and clear across my face… Because the hooded teenager quickly slowed his running and pulled back his hood.

Needless to explain, I walked very briskly for the remainder of the bridges length, listening on instinct-activated alert as the boys friends joined him to take pictures a-top the bridge behind me.

And when I finally made it to the pier. It was beautiful. It was calming. And it made me so glad I had put in the effort to get there.. A giant Ferris wheel was the center attraction of a small carnival that sat at the piers tip, surrounded by a carrousel and various other small carnival activities and vendors of sweet smelling foods. And I sat and enjoyed the scene and atmosphere of it all, and even got on the Ferris wheel – although at the top I did have an unexpected moment of anxiety when I realized the height at which I was swinging from. And it all lit up as twilight fell, and it was gorgeous.
Ferris 1Ferris 3Ferris 4Ferris 2Ferris

And all too soon my last day in beautiful Chicago was over, and it was time to meet the remaining girls (Ryan and Brittany had had to leave earlier that day) in the city for dinner.. Which after a huge series of miscommunications, plan changes and general annoying impatience, we finally managed to do – at a Mexican restaurant called Chillis, and of course, it was delicious.

And goodbyes to the bean had to take place in its city-lit glory..
bean 1bean

…. And, the next morning (at a brilliant 6am – with a 5am wake up) we departed Chicago and tried to settle in to the bus journey back towards Toronto.

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