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Published: August 31st 2007
Today is July 4th
, my first Independence Day here in the US. My friends and I have barbeque and loads of other grilled stuff by the lake here in Evanston -- my new-found "hometown". (What is it with barbeque here in America? I also remember having picnic here on another holiday called the Memorial Day. Anyway,....) There are so many people by the lake... immigrants and non-immigrants. As I walk by the lakeshore, looking for my friends fanning the coals of their barbeque grill, I hear people speaking in all sorts of languages -- some Indian language, Arab, Spanish, ofcourse English, and finally Tagalog.
All afternoon, an orchestra have been playing country and jazz. At past 9 pm, only did the fireworks start because that's only when it's dark enough to appreciate the fireworks display. Since it's summer here, the sun doesn't set till past 8 pm.
I moved here in Evanston two months ago, May 5 to be exact. With the help of my friends, I think, I got my BEST location for an apartment given that I work downtown and I prefer to live in an affordable and quiet/safe/homey place. An apartment downtown will cost me a
lot, that's for sure! I can still remember my adventures in finding this apartment...
In Search for the "Perfect" Apartment
I spent my first 2 weekends in Chicago commuting to the northern suburbs to inspect the apartments I found online. This is because, for 2 weeks, I stayed at a hotel down south in Bedford Park, Chicago which is 2 miles south of the Midway Airport, which in turn, is 11 miles south of downtown. On those weekends that I travel from the hotel to Evanston, I spend 2 hours in the trains! Yes, trains -- with an S. Imagine this: I take a long walk to the bus stop, then I take a 15-minute bus ride. When I get to the Midway Airport, I take Orange Train (the whole track of it) till Downtown. Then, I transfer to the Red Train which takes me from Downtown to northern-most Chicago. Again, I take its whole track and transfer to the Purple Train which finally brings me to Evanston! (Their color-coded trains makes me think that the C in CTA means "Crayola". Haha!) Taking a cab is never an option for me for now, because of the
A view of Downtown Chicago from Evanston
distance and ofcourse, the cost. Evanston is 12 miles north of Downtown, which in turn, is 11 miles north of the Midway Airport. 23 miles will surely cost me a lot via cab!
My new roomate and I have checked-out 4 apartments in two weeks. We have been looking for a 1 bedroom-apartment that should cost about $800 a month. (Gaaah, I know we're cheap... Haha!) Aside from that, our number one concern is its proximity to the Metra Train station. My roomate works in Deerfield, which is another suburb north of Evanston. I, on the other hand, work in Downtown Chicago. We prefer to find a place in Evanston. Aside from the fact that our common friend lives here, we think Evanston is a strategic place because it's right between our work locations. I was happy enough to find a roomate and I don't mind commuting as long as I take the Metra train. I love it more than CTA. More about that later.
My Impression on the City of Evanston
In my previous post, Commuting in Chicagoland -- and Loving it!!!
, I did mention my little observation on the ethnic diversity of residents in southern Chicago. Now that I
live up north, I can say I see more Caucasians and Asians living here. I feel lucky for having the privilege to see this for myself. Downtown Evanston has the feel of a univeristy town due to Northwestern University
, which, I think, is known for its Kellog School of Management (one of the best business schools in the US). The first time I was walking its streets, I was amused by the number of young Asian students who fill the streets, cafes, and shops.
Evanston, in general, is very residential. It is very suburb-like but with the convenience of trains (both CTA and Metra) that goes to Downtown Chicago. Evanston is the closest suburb directly north of Chicago, thus, it also has direct access to the largest lake in North America which is Lake Michigan. Wikipedia
says, "Evanston is part of Chicago's affluent North Shore region
". Affluent! Hmmm.... could be... but I can say that I see many huge, beautiful houses here especially by the lake... extravagant enough for middle class people. Also, the beautiful houses that line the lakeshore are fraternity houses.
Commuting via Metra "Polar Express"
Here's my daily commute to work: (1) 2 minute
walk to the Metra train station (2) 25 minutes in the train, southbound (3) 5 minute walk to work
Easy, huh! I love love it! I don't feel as hurried as I used to. And I enjoy the smooth and fast ride in this train. CTA trains are a bit bumpy, and slow. Metra trains are big, double-deckers. They are clean and crisp! The Metra trains have nice cushioned chairs, four in a row. There are big tinted windows on each side. To me, it was like riding the "Polar Express". (Remember that movie with the train taking kids to the north pole?)
Almost everyone in the train has something to read so, to me, I was like in a moving library! In the morning, passengers usually bring their Wall Street Journal
or Chicago Tribune
with them to read. Others have books that may be thin or thick, even hardbound! The collectors/conductors wear blue and white uniforms with neat caps. They carry around this hole-punching tool and an interesting coin-dispensing tool attached to their belts. They consistently share pleasantries with the passengers, which I like.
Every morning, I wait for my train to arrive (which is usually
Metra Evanston Main Street Station
With my co-commuters going Downtown
on time). It makes a loud, old-fashioned train sound, minus the smoke. (I still wish I could, someday, ride a train that's TRULY old-style -- with the "choo-choo" sound and the matching smoke! In Europe, perhaps?)
I Happily Got Lost
One afternoon, I took my train home from work but, I took a schedule later than usual. I still did not have the concept of "express train" in my brain just yet so I took the train anyhow, thinking that it would stop on my train station in Main Street. Hala!
It did not stop in Main Street! What else to do? Say "Mama, para po!" (Driver, stop!) I'm glad it stopped on Davis Street which is one station away from my stop. So, I decided to wait for the next train going back to Main Street. Tsk, I had to wait for 50 minutes so I convinced myself to "explore" Davis.
To my delight, getting lost in Davis was a blessing after all! There were lots of restaurants along Davis! There were lots of students in their roller blades and bikes! Feels nice to see people enjoying themselves in the streets! I went into
Near NorthWestern University
the shops and walked further till I saw a library!!! Yesssss a library! (It's the Evanston Public Library.) I fell down on my knees and screamed, "Eureka!" (Hahaha... ofcourse I did not!) I felt that I spent a good amount of time strolling around the area so I walked back to the Davis Metra station. I said to myself, "I shall return (and get myself a library card)." Yahooo!
I miss Michigan's dollar stores!!!
The sales tax here in Evanston is just a teeny-weeny less compared to Downtown Chicago. This is my only complaint about living here. Hehe! In Downtown Chicago, sales tax is 9%! (MISSING)Here in Evanston, it's 8.5%!G(MISSING)OSH!!! I can still remember how bad I felt when I had no choice but buy my groceries at Jewel Osco where the everything is more expensive than I'm used to! Maybe I lived too long in Michigan that I got used to buying cheaper food and pay lesser (6%!)(MISSING) sales tax. Plus, my ex-housemate and I find "fun" buying most of our needs at the dollar stores. Back in Michigan (atleast in Southfield), there's always a dollar store nearby. I remember buying the following for
just $1 each:
- a jar of marmalade
- a box of chocolate chip cookies
- a fat lint roller
- shower curtain
- shower curtain rings
- kitchen spatula
See? Isn't that fun. =) Now, here in Evanston, atleast, we live near a Salvation Army store and bought ourselves a GE microwave oven for just $10 bucks! And a toaster for $3. Now, isn't that much more fun! =D
I miss Michigan's Meijer. Their goods over there is always fresh and cheap! My friend keeps on teasing me to stop comparing. I have no choice now but adjust!!! Haha... Oh well... I still miss doing my weekly grocery at Meijer. Oh, by the way, there's one branch here in Illinois but it's in the city of Schaumburg, an hour's drive west of Evanston. Too far.... oh so far... especially that I don't own a car (oohh, it rhymes!)
UNIMART: The biggest Filipino store I have ever seen!
(Now, UNIMART should pay me for this. Haha! But...) I like going to UNIMART! The first time my friend, Sarah, brought me there, I was like a 4-year-old delighted to see pink
Northwestern's seal is Quaecumque sunt vera -- in Latin, "Whatsoever things are true"
cotton candy for the first time! I have never seen a Filipino store that big before!
Like all other Asian stores, they have the usual canned goods (Ligo sardines, Reno Liverspread, the slim gold can of green peas, etc) , shrimp paste or bagoong
, smoked fish or tinapa
, Skyflakes(!), YanYan, etcetera. But unlike the Asian stores I've been to before, they have a wide selection of seafood, pastries, and Filipino food like Karekare, Lumpia, Lechon Pata, Pancit, etcetera. The best part is this: They sell raw fish! Fish with head on! I sound weird, noh? Immediately, I asked for Tilapia. The vendor said, "Ilan?
" Waaa... and just like that, I felt at home right away! So they cleaned and wrapped some for me. I think I got carried away when I was speaking to this other vendor in Tagalog, asking for some pork, when I realized he's Mexican and did not understand a word that I said.
That branch we went to is along Clark, northern Chicagoland. It's almost close to the boundary between Evanston and Chicago. Their bag says they have 3 branches more. Whoah! They are such a hit! I hope someday I could put up
something like that too. Since Chicago has the 3rd largest Filipino population in the US, why not take advantage of that?
Swimming in Lake Michigan
We went swimming at Lake Michigan one hot Saturday afternoon. We had to pay $7 but it was okay. I was so excited!!! I have never gone swimming again since I left Manila. This is such a refreshing treat for me.
The sand is grainy and off-white but its color turned a bit darker as I walked towards the water. Slowly, I slid into the water that felt cold, at first. I walked farther and farther till the water reached my shoulder. I swam leisurely and tried to see what's below the surface. I saw nothing but ripples of sand at the bottom. I thought I found a sea cucumber but then I picked it up and it was just a seagrass rolled into the length of a fist. I saw one dead herring, I guess. But that was it. I swam to the "end" of the "swimmable" area and tried to stand. Alas! It's just upto my chin! I wish I could swim farther, past the posts that say
"No Boats". But I better stay within the "swimmable" area otherwise a lifeguard would whistle at me and that, is not cool.
There were three lifeguards on duty at a time. They wear red shorts and carry their red floating device -- just like those on the TV show Baywatch. At 5:30pm, the lifeguards asked everyone to leave the beach because of a sighting of lightning. I was dumbfounded. Lightning?! It's soo sunny! Funny enough, after everyone left the beach, they announced it's safe to go back to the beach. Tsk, tsk, paranoids! Haha!
Street Fair (June 16)
Our side of Evanston is a very quiet place. I never realized it could also transform into a rowdy and fun place! Well, atleast for a weekend. The green and empty nearby streets of Main Street suddenly had booths displaying and selling ethnic jewelry, potpourri, exotic furnitures, paintings, clothes, hand-painted ceramics, etcetera. The street was lively! There were bands playing country music near the train station. It was warm and humid but people did not seem to mind. They were still in the streets enjoying the sun.
Ofcourse, food stalls abound the streets! It took me
Life guard posts along the beach. Entrance fee: $7
a lot of time to decide what to take. There was "Fried Coke" sold for $8. My friend and I asked the vendor how it was made and she said it's funnel cake, but she used Coke instead of water. Ohh, okay. I decided to let that pass and try something more filling. I had Polish Sausage with Sauerkraut for $4. Gosh! I was soo thirsty I had to pay $2 for a can of Coke! That was a rip off.
Exploring MORE Suburbs
My roomate has lots (and I mean LOTS) of Filipino friends and officemates here in Illinois. Because of that, I get to go to Filipino gatherings that are usually all-day food festivities, in Tagalog, kainan
. One handaan we had to go to was in another suburb called Elgin, 35 miles west of Evanston. We drove for more than an hour. But it was a joyride for me because I get to see the other suburbs such as (going west) Skokie, Niles, Arlington Heights, Schaumburg, Bartlett, and finally Elgin. There was another time we went to Wheeling and I saw the Walgreens headquarters at Deerfield along Lakecook Road.
From Evanston, we drove to Gurnee, which is 45 minutes north by car. We are taking all this trouble just to go to a very big mall called the Gurnee Mills with only 7%!s(MISSING)ales tax. It took us a bit longer because we missed turning a street. We were not so sure that we were lost till we read a huge sign on the road that says, "Welcome to Wisconsin". Hahaha! We immediately took a U-turn and asked directions from the few gasoline stops we saw on the road.
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