British Consulate Blog 3
I wanted to start my review of the week by setting the scene to my daily commute to work. I live practically on Lake Michigan, which is connected to downtown by a road called Lakeshore Drive. As you can probably work out, this road runs right along the lake. I get on a bus by the harbour at the end of my road, ride it for 10 minutes down Lakeshore Drive and get off on the ‘Magnificent Mile’, smack bang in the middle of downtown, where I work.
The Magnificent Mile is the road in Chicago with the tallest buildings, biggest shops and most electric atmosphere. The contrast from my serene lake view apartment is incredible and whichever area I am in at the time I maintain is my favourite part of Chicago. In reality, the whole city is just wonderful and I think these contrasts are what make it so unique.
Work has been great this week. I have been out and about quite a bit, which is always fun, with visits to Kentucky, Indiana, The University of Chicago and UIC. I attended an event on international perspectives on climate change with our Vice Consul of Innovation and Economics, which was so interesting. I put together the power-point for her presentation there and even got to answer a question from the audience about the UK perspective on the debate. We got to meet people from the Japanese, Brazilian and Argentinean Consulates who were presenting there too. I loved being part of such a diverse event.
Our visit to Kentucky was brilliant. I very much enjoyed my first official business trip. We attended World Trade Day in Lexington and then made some calls to various contacts in Louisville. The couple of visits that I had set up went smoothly, much to my relief and although the hours were long, it was fantastic to get to see such a different state. Even though it was only just over an hour’s flight from Chicago, it felt like a different country. The culture, climate, landscape, accent, food… everything was a world away from the windy city. Although Kentucky is officially part of the Midwest, it is widely considered a Southern state, with a largely Southern mentality and that is where you see the real differences. The area is also fairly rural, with an abundance of horses, farms and, of course, the Appalachians (the oldest mountain range in the world.) It was eye opening to see how much the US varies from state to state and what a diverse country it is.
Since arriving back in the office, I have been making calls ahead of an upcoming visit we have by a UK government official. Part of my role here, is to co-ordinate visits by British UK government members to Chicago and arrange meetings for them with their US counterparts. When making these calls, I have found my accent to be an all round excellent ice breaker. If all else fails, they still want to know whether I know William and Kate personally, or congratulate me on the Olympics.
Evenings have been jam-packed too. Tuesday night, a colleague and I jumped on the ‘El’ (Chicago’s famous train) straight from work to Wrigleyville, where I caught my first Cubs game! Baseball is so popular in Chicago, and the Cubs are their one true love. They are an atrocious team who haven’t won the World Series in over 100 years. It doesn’t seem to matter one bit. Their fans are some of the most loyal in the country, games are always packed and the atmosphere is one of fierce pride. I enjoyed the game so much! The Cubs lost 10-1, which meant I had experienced the true value of a Cubs game- it has nothing to do with the winning and everything to do with the tradition, patriotism and buzzing atmosphere. I had a ball.
Other notable activities from this week include going up the Willis Tower and attending an evening concert in Grant Park. The Willis Tower is the tallest in Chicago and was once the tallest in the World. On the top floor, glass boxes are suspended over the city. Grant Park, meanwhile, offers free concerts on Friday nights during the summer and we managed to get to one yesterday. We took a picnic rug and relaxed after a long week.
I know it is a cliché, but I truly can’t believe how quickly time is going. The experience I am getting is life changing, from the work I am doing to the people I am meeting and every little thing in between. I am already frantically searching for ways I can return to Chicago! For now, I will make the very most of my last 2 weeks here and be sure to blog again next week.