What do Couches, India, Salsa, Ethiopia, Mothers and VanDwellers Have in Common? Chicago.

Ok, ok we know.  Chicago happened in July and August.  It’s now November.  Wait, what!?  November!?  Time definitely flies when you are not required to monitor it.  Either way, we spent 12 days hanging in and around Chicago and managed to accumulate a few pictures and memories while we were there.  Interested?  Cool.  We knew you would be.  With that... a few of our cherished memories from our time spent in the Windy City:  


CouchSurfing with Yakov:

Just before coming to Chicago, we put up a post in the Last Minute Couch Request Chicago Group asking for a legal place to park overnight.  We really didn’t need a couch, as we live in our van.  We had an offer from Yakov within 4 minutes!  He was incredibly nice and had a genuine desire to make our stay in Chicago pleasurable.  Upon our arrival, Yakov pointed out that he had a spare room just for Couch Surfers and a free futon if we so desired.  Since we’d spent several previous humid nights peeling our skin from the vinyl seats, we decided to accept his offer.  Yakov ended up taking us to a Brazilian Music Festival nearby followed by a great walking tour of his neighborhood and the beach (which was only a couple blocks away as well).  While staying with Yakov, we also had the pleasure of sharing our room with a Danish hitchhiker, who was working his way west across the country and a Polish nanny, who was working for a family in Indianapolis and visiting Chicago for a weekend getaway.  Overall, we had a great time staying with Yakov and getting to know him.  Our only regret is that we didn’t get to spend more time hanging out as he did have to work during most of the time we were there.

Little India:

While hanging out with Joanna (the Polish nanny), we all decided to check out the Indian section of Chicago.  We passed many shops with traditional Indian and Hindu clothing, some cool markets advertising foods we’d never heard of and noticed salons offering eyebrow stitching (I still don’t quite know what that is) on every corner.  We ended up enjoying a delicious lunch at an authentic Indian restaurant, making the 5 miles of walking totally worth it.

The Salsa Dancing Fiasco:

If there’s one thing we vagabonds are suckers for, it’s free stuff.  So... the Alhambra Palace (a local dance club) offers free salsa lessons (after you pay the club’s cover charge lol) for an hour prior to the actual dancing.  It sounded like a good time to us but ahhh, there was a problem- rather than teaching salsa, they instead taught bachata.  We followed the lesson with reasonable understanding and were excited to try out our new moves.  After the bachata lesson, the D.J. proceeded to play salsa music (which as far as we could tell, had a different beat and tempo than the bachata steps we were taught).  We made countless attempts only to end in countless failures.  We met Yakov and some other CouchSurfers there and recruited Liz (who used to be a dance instructor) to help us.  Try as we might, we were just not getting it.  We ended our dancing attempt with disappointment, but with greater resolve to try again.

Ethiopian Coffee:

Yakov pointed us to a quaint little Ethiopian Coffee Shop & Restaurant in his neighborhood.  Great coffee, great service.  We also learned this:  Coffee was supposedly discovered in Ethiopia.  The story: A sheepherder noticed that when his sheep were grazing in a certain section of his land, they had much higher levels of energy.  He decided to investigate and found that they’d been eating coffee berries.  As it did not make any of them sick, he was inspired to try the berries for himself.  Obviously, he was pleased with the results and eventually began making coffee.  Over time this spread throughout the land, which eventually spread to other countries by trade.  Interesting.

A Visit From Mom:

While staying in Chicago, my Mom came our for a music convention to present her new Preschool Music Education Program- Minimusic.  We spent a couple of days catching up and relaxing with her at her hotel.  We also enjoyed the use of her shower and even got to spend a little time in the swimming pool.  I was also able to come to the rescue by fixing Power Point and Keynote Presentations and providing the appropriate adapter to hook up her laptop to the conference room projector... which earned us a delicious and free meal, courtesy of Kjos Music 😀

The Achromatopsia Convention:

The reason we came to Chicago in the first place.  Not just one of the greatest highlights of our time in Chicago, but also one of the best times of our travels so far.  If you haven’t already seen our post about the convention, definitely check it out.

Van Dwelling in Downtown Chicago:

We decided that during the Achromatopsia Convention, it’d be easier to sleep in our van, closer to the convention site (Yakov’s place was 1 hour away by train/bus).  Another CouchSurfing friend hooked us up with 3 days worth of parking passes just outside of his apartment complex right downtown.  It was incredibly convenient as everything was within reasonable walking distance from our “El Carcito Hotel” (as our blog friend C.A. would say).  It was also incredibly miserable at night as this was the first of August, still peak humidity season.  Due to the convention schedule, we were only able to get a couple hours of sleep each night.  Blegh.



Ok, that sounds bad.  But here’s the deal: When we left Utah and began this journey, we knew we had to be in Chicago by the first of August for the Convention.  This meant no matter what came up, we had to proceed towards Chicago and we had to maintain at least a loose schedule (which caused us to spend far too many miserable nights in the midwest for sure).  After Chicago, the pages lay blank before us with no requirements and no expectations.  You can’t buy that type of freedom.  Well maybe you can.  Is that what we did?

Click to share thisClick to share this