The last few weeks have been busy and am just now getting around to writing a bit. Last week, my friend from Nicaragua (Maritza) and her great Aunt (Julia) came to visit in Illinois. They had hosted me a few times in Costa Rica, and I invited them to the Midwest when I learned that they were planning a trip to the US. Maritza had never been outside of Nicaragua and Costa Rica, and Julia had only been to Orlando and Miami. Seeing what I would call the “real USA” was something I thought would be a great experience for them, and they accepted the invite!
I picked them up from O’Hare airport in Chicago on Monday, December 9th, which happened to be the start of a very cold streak. For Maritza and Julia, 55 degrees (17 C) requires a winter coat, hats, and gloves. When they arrived in Chicago, it was a brisk 22 degrees (-7 C). In the next week, the weather got down to 0 degrees (-18 C) and never above 28 degrees (-2 C). This was by far the biggest complaint coming from the two. I must admit, though, they are tough and took it in stride. They might said many times how it’s just too cold, they never let it stop them from doing anything. Not even walking 20 minutes in absolutely freezing temperatures to get Mexican food at midnight.
In total, we spent 3 nights and 3 full days in Chicago. This included going to Kingston Mines (a famous Blues club), the Blue Man Group, Giordano’s Chicago Style Pizza, Chicago’s best Mexican food at Garcia’s, exploring the Navy Pier and it’s indoor Christmas fun park, having a coffee from the Signature Lounge at the John Hancock Building, checking out the Bean at Millennium Park, seeing the Christkindlmarket at Daly Plaza, and window shopping at Michigan Ave. On the way to Stockton, we stopped at the Woodfield Mall for the afternoon, as Julia always buys clothes and electronics in the US to sell back in CR (a way to offset the cost of her trip).
The next following 4 days included exploring Monroe/New Glarus, Stockton, and Galena. We even made it to church on Sunday morning, to watch Christmas Vacation in Spanish, go bowling, and to see the massive Christmas decoration collection of our neighbors’ house. Overall, I think we did a lot in a week and they enjoyed seeing the “real” USA.
It was a really good experience showing off the Midwest to someone who had never been to the US. I’m very proud to be from here, and showing it to someone always gives a new perspective. I know how fortunate we are to be from a richer country. Our houses are generally bigger with more luxuries. Big TVs are a norm, and almost everyone owns a car. This is all pretty normal for us. And I’ve seen the difference in other countries, especially the developing countries. And I’ve written about it many times. However, showing someone from a developing country like Nicaragua was a completely new experience. Their shock of seeing the size of the house, trying to explain to them why someone would need a dishwasher, them asking why we drive places when everything is so close, and seeing their faces when they see a nice dress in a store and then see the price (a price that someone here would be more than willing to pay but is ridiculous to them). Although I’ve had this mindset for several years already, this just really drilled it in even more how little one needs to spend to be happy. A $15 dress from Ross was more than sufficient rather than the $200 dress from the boutique store. For them, it may be more out of necessity. But once one gets out of the whole “Keeping up with the Joneses” attitude, it doesn’t make sense to spend 10 times the price on something that maybe look a little bit better. To me, it makes more sense to buy based on practical value.
The trip was also an experience for my family to meet some people who don’t speak English. Mom and Dad were kind and hosted us for five nights, and Chad and Kendra had us come up to Monroe for a day. Always uncomfortable at first, but little by little, everyone loosens up and realizes there is always a way to communicate. Even if I wasn’t around to translate, it’s always possible to communicate. As Maritza said, a smile is universal.
I definitely had a great time over the past 8 days showing my friends my home. Thank you to my mom and dad for having us stay and for being so kind and hospitable, and also to Chad and Kendra for showing us around and for cooking a great dinner!