Week two – Life (and death) in Chicago…
This week has been an interesting one. Work activities have ranged from attending Argonne National Laboratory, to meeting with the Anti Defamation League, to a visit to Cook County Morgue. Meanwhile, social activities have included drinks on the 96th floor of the Hancock building taking in the magnificent Chicago skyline, a day trip to Cantigny Park and a Sunday of lounging by the pool and wandering around Michigan Avenue.
My working week began with accompanying Rob Bishop, a member of the Raspberry Pi team (if you don’t know what a Raspberry Pi is, check it out here!), to the Argonne National Laboratory. Argonne is really interesting; funded by the Department of Energy, it houses a supercomputer among many other things beyond my understanding! Rob and his speech on the Pi were very well received by researchers at Argonne and after three days in Chicago, he is now off to promote the Pi elsewhere in the US. As for me, I have been tasked with writing a blog post on his visit and the Raspberry Pi as a guest blogger for the FCO website – wish me luck!
Tuesday morning was a bit of a rude awakening with an 8am visit to Cook County Morgue. The experience was very surreal and graphic, to say the least. Chicago has some serious problems with gun crime and we happened to be there when they brought in two victims of a shooting. During the visit we heard about how records are kept, witnessed firsthand the protocol for attending to the bodies when they are first brought to the morgue, we watched several autopsies and saw where the bodies are stored post-autopsy. I could provide a lot of detail on this visit, but I think I will refrain as it isn’t a particularly pleasant subject. Of course, there is an important reason behind a visit such as this to the morgue; when a British national dies here it is the Consulate’s responsibility to provide assistance to the family of the deceased. This will often involve liaising with Cook Country morgue, if not accompanying family members to the morgue to identify bodies or collect possessions.
Tuesday afternoon the CG and I had an initial meeting with 4 board members of the Anti Defamation League’s Chicago branch. It was mostly introductions and we were pleased that our visitors praised the work of the UK government on more than one occasion during the meeting.
Wednesday morning was spent touring the ‘Impressionism, Fashion & Modernity’ exhibit at the Art Institute. It was really interesting and there were some gorgeous late 19th century dresses! Even better, we were able to arrange a tour before public opening hours and so had the place to ourselves to really take it all in. In the afternoon some colleagues and I attended a ‘Sister Cities’ event in downtown; it was great to celebrate Chicago’s many successful links with its foreign counterparts, particularly its sister city link with Birmingham in the UK!
Thursday was a much quieter day; I spent the morning working on the Raspberry Pi blog and sat in on a Science and Innovation phone call in the afternoon. Friday was spent finishing off bits and bobs and I had a meeting with the Consul General about my progress so far and was able to receive some feedback on the two briefs I have submitted for Indiana and the trip to Argonne. All of the activities I have been involved with this week have been so interesting (even if some were a little traumatic!) and I have once again been very aware of the range of duties required of a Diplomat. It really is a job where adaptability and ‘can-do’ attitude is of the utmost importance. Until next time!