I have been in Chicago for a litle over two weeks now. I’m here for two main reasons: to spend time with my brother Kenton, who moved here a month ago from Sioux City, Iowa, and to apply for my Z Visa at the Chinese Consulate, for my new teaching job in Suzhou. Among other things, Chicago is notable for its architecture, and for being a great food city. I also spent portions of my young life here, as a college student, and later during a transitional period in my mid-20s. The city had always held fond memories for me, and is one of those places that keeps calling me back again.
To recap my journey thus far, from Chengdu I flew to Shanghai, taking the express train the next day to Suzhou, where I’ll start a new teaching job in a couple of weeks at Xian Jiaotong-Liverpool University. During 2 1/2 days in Suzhou I had just enough time, in between rainstorms that alternated with sticky, hot weather, to spend an afternoon looking at apartments. I chose a semi-furnished 2-bedroom unit about 10 minutes from my new university, paid the deposit and first 3 months’ rent, then returned to Shanghai for my 13-hour direct flight to Chicago.
I had originally scheduled my stay in Chicago for 10 days, but had to change it to 3 weeks, due to yet more delays in my Chinese visa process. It’s been a long, hard process that will have lasted 3 months when it’s finally done. The main difficulty was the certificate of no criminal conviction, which still has not been resolved, either from China or from the USA. After calling the FBI branch about the status of my record, which had been mailed to China but hadn’t yet arrived, the bureau steadfastly refused to send a duplicate of the document to me in Chicago. Somehow, in a process I don’t understand, my university in Suzhou managed to put the visa request through without this document. As a matter of fact, my visa documents just arrived by express mail from China this morning. Next stop, Chinese Consulate. My return to China will then be next Thursday, August 7.
I have been through a certain amount of culture shock since arriving here, not least from the persistent friendliness of the people. The clean air was also a shock – it took about 5 days for my usual pollution cough from China to clear up. The weather in Chicago has also been unseasonaly mild, with cool temperatures, almost constant sunshine, beautiful clouds, and a slight breeze. It’s the exact opposite of the gray skies and gray air of Chengdu.
I have had have many adventures here, exploring the city by el train and bus, on foot, and by eating. I will catalogue some of my culinary adventures in another post. I’ve visited parts of the city I had never seen before, and by my departure I should have Chicago out of my system, at least for the time being.