Tuesday, June 18, 2013

California Girls in the Windy City

With a few hours to spare for sleep, I ended up just staying up because I couldn’t sleep.  I left the house with my mother and arrived at El Cerrito High. To my surprise, a lot of people had already arrived. Both the Cornell and Columbia cohorts were leaving today, so we headed to SFO on a bus together. While a lot of the parents and cohorts chattered, I was reluctant to part from my mother. I wanted to talk with my cohort, but I knew that after I boarded the bus, I would see them almost every minute of every day for a month. And perhaps I’d become homesick, so I didn’t want to regret not keeping my mother company before I left. Don took pictures of each cohort and handed us our itineraries. Everyone exchanged warm hugs in the brisk air and said their goodbyes.

My cohort was headed off to Chicago whereas Columbia was going to New York.  As the driver took our luggage out, I claimed a striped Nautica suitcase located next to my carry on. My cohort gets in line to check-in and all of a sudden, we start receiving texts asking “do you have my bag?” Just to make sure, I checked the suitcase again and realized that although the bag looked just like mine, the lock did not. I called the mysterious number back and it turned out to be Bryan Moran, a student also from Pinole Valley High.  His chaperone advised us to bring the bags and meet each other halfway. It was almost my turn to check-in so I kept running. I started to feel like I’d been running for a while and I didn't see him. It turns out we somehow managed to run past each other and ended up at the opposite airlines.  What seemed like the beginning of a bad day could have been, but we were able to get our bags and keep an open mind for the rest of the day.

After boarding the plane, I re-read a few parts of the book for my course because I didn’t get a chance to mark the pages I thought were important. My need for sleep kicked in and I dozed off for about an hour. We finally arrived in Chicago after almost four hours. The airport was extremely busy and we made our way to the baggage claim. The thought of Bryan wearing my clothes and me wearing Bryan’s clothes was enough to make sure I had the correct bag this time. 

I sat in between Rochelle and Jenna behind the plane's right wing
On the shuttle ride to The Drake Hotel, we passed by gorgeous scenery and tall glassy buildings. The area surrounding the hotel was packed with designer stores such as Louis Vuitton and Swarovski. The hotel itself was very luxurious too. It's embellished with countless chandeliers and wood finishing. A beautiful floral centerpiece sits in the lobby. One out of our three rooms wasn't ready, so we all went to one of the open rooms. Christian, Jenna, and I are staying in one room. Each room has one queen-sized bed and a pull out bed. We have views of downtown Chicago and plenty of room to blog! The last room became available and everyone settled in.

The Drake Hotel

A view of a restaurant from the lobby
 None of us had eaten since 10 a.m., so we looked for a nearby restaurant to eat at. We walked to the Water Tower Place, an upscale shopping mall. We ate at Foodlife, a dining area that had 14 different kitchens within in. There were booth-like areas that said soup or pasta. The food ranged from Chinese to Mexican and we all just swiped a card after we ordered something. I had a small bowl of mushroom and barley soup, tortellini, and a strawberry crepe. Once we were done eating, we turned in all the cards and the cashier would calculate the bill. We all liked the dessert booth so much that we had no choice but to burn off all the calories!

Before leaving, we all discussed a few places that we'd like to visit. Mr. Chan-Law came up with a list that was really similar to ours. We walked to Millennium Park which was a mile or so away. The walk was probably long, but there were so many interesting buildings and shrubs that we didn't even realize it. We walked past Michael Jordan's Steakhouse and the Tribune Tower.

My cohort in front of the Tribune Tower

As we got closer to Millennium, "The Phantom of the Opera" filled the streets. I wasn't sure where it was coming from, but it felt like background music in a movie. We saw the bean and then I realized where the music was coming from. If you walk past the bean, you see another silver structure that looks like a cobweb connected to a blooming chrysanthemum. Underneath the structure is rows and rows of red velvet seats set up just like an auditorium. On the stage, an orchestra is being conducted by a dramatic conductor. He would jump on stage as the song was reaching it's climax
The bean

A view of  the open theater in Grant Park

We ended the outing by stopping at Buckingham Fountain. It was a a multi-tiered fountain with extra sea creature statues shooting water. All of our feet started to ache, but we got to take the bus home! The bus was really clean and spacious. The worst part was all the traffic that we went through. We ended up becoming hungry again, so we went out for another meal. Today was probably the best Tuesday I've ever had and I'm thrilled to start touring the colleges here. 
Thanks for taking our group pictures Mr. Chan-Law!

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