Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Life beyond Texas

Hello world,

I said I would keep an update on my life so here it goes. Cheryl and I had a great time in NYC. We saw two Broadway musicals, Phantom of the Opera and Fiddler on the Roof. We saw some nice museums and ate at some really good restaurants (and one really bad expensive one). Everybody always asks how we liked the city. Well it’s big. Really big. And big places are the type that everybody will find something they like. This is what NYC is. We visited like tourists and did all the things one does as a tourist in any big city. Besides that there really wasn’t much to it. Never mind that the hotel was a bit on the expensive side. Apparently when you pay more for a hotel room the less free services you get, like access to a washing machine or breakfast. But there were delis all around that we were able to get anything we needed for breakfast. It is interesting because in NYC deli actually means “place where sandwiches, breakfast, small amounts of groceries, convenient store items, Chinese buffet, internet café, and all the surliness you can handle is sold”. The town also has plenty of Starbucks. Every two blocks had a Starbucks, and two other coffee shops. So you can find one while you are avoiding the large smelly piles of trash lying around. The most expensive real estate in the world can’t afford trash bins. New York is also the only place in the world where you can make $175,000 a year and still live in state subsidized housing. (No wonder it’s a Democratic state.) But that is New York.

Chicago on the other hand is a bit different. Okay so it is a big city with all the same problems and pleasures just like NYC, but here I get to live so I see the unpleasant side a little more frequently. The good news is that the city is incredibly Catholic. Since we have been here we have done nursing home ministry, jail ministry, and participated with the standard college church stuff. One thing that is really nice is the church is about three buildings down from my office. So Cheryl and I can attend daily Mass regularly. We made some enchiladas for the Graduate Fellowship night and the students ate them up. I could have sworn that they had never seen these things called enchiladas before. One guy from Puerto Rico kept asking if this is what everyone cooks at home in Texas. Of course we were also told that the salsa was much too hot. I guess it is a good thing that I didn’t use my friend’s recipe that calls for four jalapeños. Our priest, Fr. Mike, is an incredibly nice man. He teaches moral theology in the doctoral program at Loyola University and has been kind enough to explain which programs around are Catholic by name and which by practice (kind of like Marcel, but in a much nicer more elegant way). He also gave us the low down on the university, “Its nerd central. I’ve been to Oxford, Stanford, MIT; none of these places are as nerdy as U of C.” He also gives about the best sermons I have ever heard. Typically they are only reflections on the Gospel passages but they really drive at the heart with challenges on living a Christian life. So we are really finding a home at the church here.

As for my studies, well they are just fine. Sure it’s harder than Tech but what serious program isn’t? Funny one of my professors said that we should really think if we are spending enough time working on our homework. One of my classmates later said he was spending 3 out of 7 complete days working on it, if that isn’t enough he quits. The scary part is that the class is basically a warm up for the hardest class of the program. I am not having too many difficulties; I just spend 2 whole days a week on it.
I guess the biggest adventure we have had while we have been here is the garage sales. Really advertising in Chicago is an art of interpretation. We saw an ad for a couch for $99 brand new from a local furniture store. When we got to the store the clerks had no idea that such an ad even existed. We went to a huge garage sale; we saw one table with toys and beat up pots and pans. We got to an enormous garage sale and found two tables with “furniture” (a lamp and stepstool). We went to the four family garage sale blowout, found the same only times four. After going to 14 garage sales we found a couch and two bookcases, at two estate sales. We were really glad to find them because we might have bought the 1950’s bright orange couch with wooden armrests and legs (it made me shudder at its hideousness but it was in our price range). So basically, the next time you are in Chicago, don’t even bother with the garage sale, even if they have the most elegant description you can imagine.

Well I am off to make a meal that will make any Atkins’ dieter cry, so long till next time.

God Bless,

Monday, September 27, 2004

Moving from Texas

Today is my first day at the University of Chicago where I will be a part of the Computational Mathematics program in the Department of Computer Science. It will be fun. Cheryl and I moved up to Chicago from August 28th to September 3rd. After packing every square inch of the U-haul trailer, we piled the back of the pick-up truck full to be the self-appointed Hyde Park Hillbillies (Hyde Park is the neighborhood where we live in Chicago). The hardest part of the trip was getting out of Texas. We really wondered if we could leave the state, then the bearings on the water pump decided they for sure were not leaving, causing us to spend the better part of two days in Shamrock, TX. Luckily, we found an honest mechanic who worked on the truck in a garage that resembled a farm shed built during the industrial revolution filled with rusty parts from everything from lawnmowers to irrigation tanks. We made the rest of the way with relatively few hitches. We did stop off at the National Shrine of Our Lady of the Snows which was quite interesting and most definitely the highlight of the trip.

We arrived at Chicago on September 1st but were unable to move in till the third so Cheryl and I decided to scout out how we were going to move into the apartment. Never living in the city we thought it to be a good idea to check on things like parking and getting the keys to the apartment and what not. First, we find that there is no parking. Well that’s not quite right, the streets in Hyde Park are lined with cars that might move on a monthly basis. I think it takes at least a month of the public transportation system before people are willing to deal with finding another parking spot. Second, the freight elevator looks like the same mechanic actually built it in the industrial revolution not to mention that it is between the buildings dumpsters, adding that wonderful smell to a hot and muggy day. Finally, our apartment is nice except the architect wins the award for smallest kitchens. I guess I can’t complain, I can turn side ways in it but if my Buddha belly grows anymore I might have a hard time getting out.

Moving in was fun. The one problem was we didn’t listen to the flight attendant’s warning about the load shifting during the flight. I’m sure somebody got a kick out of seeing the Hyde Park Hillbillies race the truck down the street and slam on the breaks to a sudden stop several time while praying that it works this time. Fortunately, the U-haul door opened and the movers marveled at how efficiently it was packed. If a field mouse could get in there, the cat chasing him would definitely have no hope. After the grueling task of putting all the boxes in our apartment, we only unpacked enough to get by and then made our way off to NYC for the honeymoon. But that is another story.

As far as my website goes, I hope to update it with updates on Cheryl and I, Andy’s ranting of different stuff, and anything that I find particularly interesting on the web. This of course has never happened before but I will still pretend that it can happen someday.

God Bless,