Moving to the 'Burbs (Suburbs)

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July 4th 2007
Published: August 31st 2007
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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
Distant DowntownDistant DowntownDistant Downtown

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 StationMetra Evanston Main Street StationMetra 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
Davis Street Davis Street Davis Street

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:

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

The ArchThe ArchThe Arch

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
The BeachThe BeachThe Beach

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 or handaan. 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.


to Wisconsin

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.

Additional photos below
Photos: 22, Displayed: 22



Residents of the boardwalk
Sandy BottomSandy Bottom
Sandy Bottom

I like how the lake makes irregular "footprints" on its sandy bottom
Another FirstAnother First
Another First

This is the first Dog Beach I have ever seen
Air TimeAir Time
Air Time

Literally -- Ads On Air. I rarely see anything like this except on TV.
Davis at NightDavis at Night
Davis at Night

There's Wolfgang's Resto!
Leaning Tower of _ _ _ _ _Leaning Tower of _ _ _ _ _
Leaning Tower of _ _ _ _ _

Guess what? It's YMCA's Leaning Tower in Niles, IL (a replica of Italy's Leaning Tower of Pisa)

20th August 2007

Another exciting trip
Dear Ann Marie, Sorry I have been late adding my comments, I read your article the day it was posted on my email, but just now getting to respond, of course I would rather read about one of your exciting trips in Asia, or where ever, but you describtion of Detroit and Chicago are funny and interesting to read. Its sounds as if you are getting a good taste of American culture with the amusement parks and all of our junk food establishments,,,just be careful you don't lose your nice Asian figure if you eat to much of the American foods. Fall in the North is nice but soon winter will be there and you will experience why they call Chicago the windy city, very cold. I still think you need to move to Atlanta...I'm teasing. AS always I enjoyed reading your blog and looking forward to the next one. Stay safe and keep writing. Eddie
5th September 2007

I am thrilled that people like you look forward to my next posts! Thanks so much!!! I feel great about comments like these, aside from the fact that I really love to write about my travel experiences. I have written quite a lot about the Phils, so feel free to browse my posts on Surigao, Kalinga, Cebu, Sagada, Cagayan De Oro, Camiguin, etc. Thanks for the warning on big American-size food servings! It's a lot of fun to try them all, though! HAHA!
19th September 2007

Hello there Kababayan!
Hi Ann Marie! Nice to know that there is a Filipina, an IT professional one too writing their travels here in travelblog. I have read some of your blogs and was really amused. Hope to know more about you! Regards. EDA
24th November 2007

Delayed reaction
Hey MArie! hehehe Ngayon ko lang nabasa etong travel blog mo! Kasi naman..pinadala mo sa yahoo email addy ko - eh i have stopped checking that a long time ago! ANyway... I really am very proud of you! You are a very talented and special girl. Your stories inspire me, and it's so funny how you share even the tiniest detail of your experiences! Lol! By the way, you need to make plans to travel to Europe!!! And let me know so we can do it together ;) hey make sure to contact me via my gmail account from now on Love yah! - Girl
2nd December 2007

Thanks! =D Yeah, Europe.... someday... someday.... someday!
26th January 2008

your blog
hi annamarie, i was Googling the keyword 'Unimart' so i can get their phone # so i can place an order of turon when i stumbled upon your blog :) i must say that i enjoyed reading your first time experiences here in chicago...hehe. good details and you took some nice pictures ;) props to ya. well, take care and enjoy chicago! hope you like snow ;)
28th January 2008

Hi Noel! Thanks for dropping by (thanks to Google, hehe!). All the while I thought I have a link to Unimart. So, now, I updated it so other Filipinos can still find the link to Unimart. Love your own! Buy Filipino. Hehe! Thanks for posting a comment, Noel.

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