Being from a small, Florida farm town, my trip to Chicago, Illinois was filled me with culture shock. The town, seen as quaint, quiet, and homey, had held me captive in its border’s for 17 years until I finally broke free.
Going through O’Hare airport was a lesson within itself. Not only had I not flown before (THAT experience is a whole other story!), but never in my life had I realized there were so many people in the world! I’ve heard the statistics; I’ve studied population in school, but never seen such massive crowds. I witnessed this again as a strolled downtown with my grandmother. Blacks, whites, Indians, Koreans, Hispanics! All of them were rushing across the streets, whistling for cabs, or talking on their cell phones. The amount of diversity and activity never ceased, and that amazed me.
â–º Quarter Finalist 2011 Teen Travel Writing Scholarship
Later we went to Shedd Aquarium, as well as the Field Museum. Oh, the rooms and rooms of exhibits! So much to learn, so much to see! I saw dolphins and jellyfish, as well as ancient Chinese sculptures and the Aztec outfits of my ancestors. The Art Institute was amazing too. Picasso, Matisse, Monet! The classic El Greco and American Gothic, the century old Iranian pottery and statues from antiquity! Every piece had a story to tell. Every piece was beautiful in my culture-thirsty eyes.
You haven’t lived until you’ve eaten baklava from an Arabian bakery, and the entire physiology of your tongue is transformed with its first taste of authentic Mexican tamales. The vast amount of food in Chicago was like a wonderland. You don’t feel like eating Italian tonight? Let’s have Moroccan! You’re not in the mood for Grecian Gyros? How about Swedish pastries? Chi-town has a plethora of options, not only in food, but in everything.
Maybe that’s what I liked most about the city: I wasn’t constrained. If I wanted to go shopping, I could. If I wanted to sit and sip a cup of coffee, I could. No one was watching me, no one was judging me. I wasn’t looked at with the questionable brows that I’m used to at home when I wore my leopard print shorts. I was scoffed at as I skipped by Lake Michigan. No one told me to be quiet; no one hushed me as I sat in my grandmother’s yard and sang to myself. I spread my wings to fly from the nest and now I’ve found my niche. Maybe I’m a city girl after all.
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