We’ve been here three weeks already.
Sometimes, it feels like time flies. At others, it seems as though we are floating through time with each day taking ages to pass by. I had a fabulous time with the kids….we were together night and day, doing everything together . It was so much fun :). Eventually, we realized that it was time to put them in school . Luckily, we found one close to our apartment and the kids were duly enrolled (that deserves a post in itself). The kids started school last week. I feel each day dragging by once the twins leave :( . The hours which earlier flew by when we were all at home, seem to drag on endlessly when the kids are away. I have a crick in my neck from turning to look at the wall-clock every few minutes :( (wonder how BF managed it for a year all alone)
On the plus side, this break from the kids has given me a chance to observe this city and environment more closely. The more I see, the more I’m surprised. I confess I had my own preconceived notions about America (and Americans) and I’m glad that much of it is misplaced. For once, I’m happy that am being proved wrong :) . So here are a few things that have me nodding my head in wonder :-
1) I wouldn’t have used the word “Conservative” to describe the people here but surprisingly that is exactly what they are. Much to my surprise, regular people are still conservative in their appearance and thoughts. Family values still hold strong and places like the twin’s school can compete with the public schools in India regarding school uniforms (no short skirts :| . In fact, they said that it would be preferable if we sent our daughter in pants :| ). Even our apartment administration has a dress code. No loitering in the lobby in shorts OR bikini tops!
2) Even though I stopped doing the mental currency conversion, it stands true that downtown Chicago rates are much steeper than the outskirts/suburbs. Onions are more expensive than cheese and parking lots cost more than cars. This place is really expensive *Sigh*. Also, there are no prices tags on the products. The store decides the rate. A packet of chips in one store could come for $2 and the very same pack could be available in another for $5. There is no concept of MRP like we have back home. The good part is that you can get everything here. And I mean, everything! Even Parle-G. I kid you not!!
3) People here are very cordial with their P’s and Q’s in place. They will talk about the weather and chat about their work, but no one talks much about themselves or their families. Asking about their wives/husbands/kids is seen as intrusion on their privacy :| . I realized this when once too often, my questions were met with silence or change of topic! I mean c’mon! How long can one talk about the weather which has been the same for the last 4 months??
4) I used to curse Indian television which inserted a zillion advertisements when a movie was playing. But that is nothing compared to what happens on some channels here. The last 5 minutes of a movie were dragged for 20 minutes, with advertisements inserted after every minute of the movie !! I was so stunned I sat through the entire thing wondering what lengths they could take their advertising to :D
5) Traffic in downtown Chicago is much like it is back in Pune. Bumper-to-bumper vehicles during peak hours and mostly empty roads thereafter. So I was walking along one day when I saw a traffic jam. Vehicles at a crossing were stuck at the centre because of a signal further ahead on that road. Though it was a green signal for the other side, the cars couldn’t move because of the other vehicles stuck in the centre. As I stood there watching, I felt something missing. Something that I thought should be a part of that scene but wasn’t! And then it hit me. There was not a single car horn to be heard! Yup, no honking! It was absolute silence as every single driver waited for the traffic jam to clear. And no, there was no traffic policeman around. Everybody patiently sat in their cars and waited for their turn. It was shocking and amazing! I couldn’t help but wonder what would have happened if the same scene took place in Pune! Also, though they have signals for pedestrian crossings, there are times when people cut across the road. Even then, the cars slow down and wait for you to cross. No cussing or yelling out by the drivers :) . It is so wonderful to see such discipline :) .
6) People here love their pets. Many locals don’t have kids. They prefer keeping dogs or cats. Each to his own, I say. But the best part is that they treat the pets exactly like they would a child. The stores have the most amazing variety of dog/cat food, treats, toys and even clothes :| . So deep is the love for pets that the half-kilometer radius near my apartment has more than 6-7 pet grooming saloons and hospitals. The best part? There are no clinics/hospitals for people :| !
7) I was at the Social Security office the other day. There was a line for the security check. I had dumped my purse and jacket on the conveyor belt for scanning and was waiting for my turn. When it came, the tall, burly security guy (definitely white American) looked at me and said,” Toh, kahan jaana hai aapko?” To say that I did a double take would be putting it mildly. He, of course, looked amused :) . Obviously, he was waiting for me to reply. “I wasn’t expecting that”, I mumbled feebly,”Social Security office jaana hai”. “Koi baat nahin”, he says, “Aap second floor par jao. Khushi hui aapse milkar”. Whoa!! What was that?! When I asked the BF later, he said that the security guy had a roommate who was Pakistani. So thats why the chaste Urdu . I think it was very nice :) .
There’s so much more to put down here….maybe I should just start a category on Chicago Tales and dump my posts under that header :) . For now, I have a pending task of doing the dishes before I go and pick the kids from school.
Have fun :)