Kolmapäev, 6. oktoober 2021

Go Blue. Public toilets

Doesn't really seem that big? Take a look at the next pic:


Yep, just a thumb wide.

This is the view from Detroit Airport toilet stall.

Three fingers easily.

I know I've written about it before, but the public toilets here are like a combination of the restrooms of 10th Secondary School of Tartu, where instead of doors there were mini hatches that hid less than a stripper's dress and hi-tech, where the toilet tries to guess when would be the right moment to flush.

First the doors. Public toilets are literally public here. There is always a multi-finger gap between the stall door and the wall, which allows you to comfortably observe what is happening at the sinks while sitting on the toilet, and if outside of the stalls you don't have to guess or throw yourself on the floor to see if the stall is taken or not. Just walk to the door and from several gaps you can clearly see the stage of ongoing business to figure out how long you need to wait.

Often the flushing is automatic, i.e. as soon as it notices a movement, flushing follows immediately. In most cases, even before I zip my jeans again, the toilet has flushed in an average of 3-4 times. Since the toilet paper holders are about 30 cm above the floor, I usually squat down to get the paper from there, and the first flushing takes place right after I get up again. The next 2-3 follow after every other movement. And who are these almost on the floor paper holders for?

Esmaspäev, 4. oktoober 2021

The Night Chicago Died. Three States


Yesterday afternoon we walked through the famous cloud gate, which due to its shape is very suitably called a bean. The famous bean was completely crowded and we planned to come here again on Monday morning. Today, as soon as there was the daylight outside, we headed to the bean. At 7:30am there were only a couple of people there and we were able to enjoy the view and take pictures without distractions.

After breakfast we took Uber and picked up our rental car. Before we got out of Chicago, we were already in Indiana instead of Illinois. Since the Indiana National Dunes were on our way, we had planned to take a hike there. We had to pay $12 for that fun. But the lake and the dunes were worth it. The waves were as big as by the ocean, and at the beginning of October there were almost no other people. Swimming, by the way, was strictly forbidden. As the Coast Guard finishes its work after the Labor Day at the beginning of September, it is no longer allowed to put your feet in the water after that. We went to the bird watching tower and climbed up the nearest dune.

A quick late lunch in Michigan City, and around the sunset time we arrived in Jackson, where Scott's mom lives.

Pühapäev, 3. oktoober 2021

The Night Chicago Died. Meet Gaili, spelled Violet

 That's how "Gaili" is spelled here.

See, that's where we went to!

To consider your Bloody Mary part of the filling brunch, obviously there's the bacon.

At 4am I woke up starving, sure that my stomach had chewed it's way through my spine. I got up, ate a handful of nuts and went back to bed.

I waited for the sun to rise, put on my running shoes, and did an eight-kilometer lap along the shores of Lake Michigan.

We chose the popular Beatrix restaurant for brunch, and after a half an hour walk we had to wait only another half an hour to get a table. Their 10-grain oatmeal with brown sugar, cranberries and almonds sounded so good that I could already imagine this luxurious porridge bowl vividly. Scott chose a burger and we also got some fluffy pancakes with lemon syrup. My oat-mocha coffee was absolutely delicious, creamy and strong. And then came the food. A large bowl of gray porridge that was so watery that there was water even on the edge of the bowl. There were a couple of cranberries in the middle, a tiny spoonful of sugar, and some almond slices. I approached it with extreme caution and after tasting it, it turned out that caution was well justified. In addition to the fact that the baby porridge contained neither milk nor cream, there was not one grain of salt. The waitress suggested to bring me some more sugar. I didn't see how it would improve the meal, so she offered to replace the porridge with yogurt accompanied by muesli and berries. Fortunately, that was good. And the pancakes were just melting in our mouths.

As always, we had chosen a place with great views over the city, and after the brunch we walked to 360 degrees observatory. Took the elevator to the 94th floor and got the entire Chicago in front of us. For $8 there was the window tilt - you stand by the window and it starts to tilt in three goes, so that you end up standing at a 45-degree angle. It is apparently the most magnificent thrill ride in Chicago. Since there was nothing to see on the street next to the observatory, we decided to skip it.

There are always seasonal drinks at Starbucks, and in October they carry pumpkin spice latte and apple crisp macchiato. I decided to try the apple one.

Barista: What's your name?

Me: Gaili

Barista: Say no more. And writes the name on the cup. 

I get my drink and it turns out that Gaili is now being spelled "Violet" here.

In the afternoon we walked to the aquarium and watched the Chicago skyline over the lake. The weather was still superb, the sun was shining… And then we started walking to Little Italy to have dinner there. We could hardly get out of the park when the beautiful weather had become a mega pouring rain. So we jumped into Uber. It turned out that only one Italian restaurant and one Chinese restaurant were open in the whole district. Italian one, as it turned out, luckily also had a back room, and we got a table there in proud solitude and freezing Alaska.

Later the night we walked to the aquarium again to see the city skyline in lights.

Laupäev, 2. oktoober 2021

The Night Chicago died. Challenges in the airport



As always with the early flights, we got up before the rooster and the dawn and were at check-in almost two hours before departure. I give my passport to the check-in girl and say that I was unable to check in online.

Expert Airport Chick: Do you have a special permit?

Me: No, I don't need a special permit to go as a spouse.

Expert airport chick: No, you can't go without permission.

Me: What permission are you talking about?

Expert airport chick: Well, you contact the embassy and they will then give you written permission along with a number. You need that to travel to the United States.

Me: No, the spouse of a US citizen can enter the country without special permission.

Expert airport chick: Unfortunately, those are the rules.

Me: Since when does this rule apply?

Expert Airport Chick: Since the beginning of a pandemic.

Me: But I went to the US last summer. 

The concise conversation continued for the next 15 minutes.

Expert airport chick: Wait, I'll call and ask.

Expert airport chick on the phone: Hi, here's one flying to the US and she claims she doesn't need a special permit. What do I do? … Ahah, ok, I'll ask.

Expert Airport Chick: Are you married?

I see Scott's blood pressure skyrocketing and quickly confirm that I am indeed married, as I have said many times before.

Check in done, through the security and even the flight departured on time. It turned out that Lufthansa only gives bottled water to everyone free of charge, everything else you could buy. For three euros I got lazy coffee - ground coffee in the cup, covered with hot water. The lid had a filter though.

The transfer in Frankfurt was absolutely perfect - passport control was quick, we had time to go through the Lufthansa service center to find out if Scott could somehow get the water bottle back he forgot on the plane (it was a fancy bottle, not an empty blue plastic one), and arrive at the gate right when the rich and beautiful started to board. Before reaching the gate, there was the document check, which in our case meant passports, boarding passes and the marriage certificate. Who would have thought back in January 2018 that airports would become the place, where we have used our marriage certificate the most.

United has some new planes where the windows no longer have blinds but some hi-tech smart glass. As soon as we reached our altitude and had finished the breakfast, the windows were turned dark and the rest of the midday flight was in the complete dark. The departure from Frankfurt was at 9am, we arrived in Chicago at 11am and could have enjoyed the sun and views for 9 hours, but instead we got some mandatory nap hours. Someone like me clearly can't not mention the tiny amount of food that was served on the nine-hour flight. If I hadn't had my own quark desserts, apples and nuts, my stomach would have chewed itself through the back of my seat. After taking off, we received eggs and potatoes, 5 pieces of fruit, one muffin and one of those horrible stroopwafers. I can't pat myself enough on the shoulder that I saved the untouched waffle a few hours later and hungry, even this one was eaten. And about 7.5 hours later, just before landing, we got a little pretzel bun with cheese and turkey.

At the hotel we managed to get the room about three hours before the check-in time and it seemed that we also got a slight upgrade - I couldn't remember booking our accommodation with a separate bedroom and kitchenette for us :)

Every time it's been a while since my last visit to the United States, I tend to forget a thing or two - such as the fact that the water level in the toilets here is much higher than in Europe. And this hotel also had a particularly low toilet - basically, you had to be careful not to get your fingers wet when using toilet paper. How men manage to not dip their ding-a-longs there in the water is a mystery to me.

We ate a couple of tacos and quesadilla (not good) at a nearby bar and took a walk in the park next to the hotel. They had just begun to set up some tents and fences, and we asked what was going on. A local security guard announced that there would be the Chicago marathon tomorrow. Since the park was literally next to our hotel, through which we could reach the lake in a few minutes, I had already imagined how I would run here along the lake tomorrow morning. So clearly a marathon on my running track didn't make me happy. Just before returning to the hotel, we saw ads that the Chicago Marathon would be on the next Sunday, a week away. Life was good again.

At around 5pm we returned to the hotel to take a nap and then go out somewhere for dinner. At 7pm we woke up, brushed our teeth and went to sleep.