Chicago, Chicago (21 Jul – 6 Aug)Charlie

A lot has been said about this memorable stop on our world tour and although all stops were definitely memorable, this one was especially special. Although I am currently in the south of France and still behind on a lot of blogs I still deem it necessary to elaborate on my own experiences and feelings about the windy city. I am sure that at the end of this tour, we will be able to recall a lot of special things from our memory, but I know that as soon as we start thinking the first memories that jumps impulsively into our heads will be that of Chicago.

As you know already from my mother's blogs, the first week after landing at the Chicago's O'Hare airport was one of adventure and discovery. It was, by the grace of God, one of the very few times we had nothing planned in terms of where we will stay or in what we will stay! We were left to challenge the void of imagination and adventure in our thoughts. The only problem at the beginning of these few days was that everyone started to think for a change. Usually we plan the basic things beforehand and then during our time there the tour co-ordinator, my mother, would make suggestions as to what she felt had to be done. In these few days on the other hand, we didn't even have the basic stuff planned… Luckily we booked one thing ahead of time which was the car. That helped us more than you could ever imagine. You see, if you have wheels, your horizon of possibilities becomes broader by the second. In retrospect I think it was a good thing but at that time I wasn't sure if more possibilities was making things easier or more difficult.

So it all began… We climbed in our newly rented Cadillac and hit the road with absolutely no idea of where we were off to. We impulsively just decided to stay on the I- 90 E and see where that leads us. It took us past the city, past all Chicago's beautiful skyscrapers and finally out of Illinois. Then we were a bit unsure of what to do next, because as soon as we brought the inevitable question to the table a kaleidoscope of different views and ideas flushed through the car. Where were we headed? That question still remains a companion to me, not only in the practical sense of where to travel but in life as to where we will take our own life, where will we steer our own ship? After a lot of arguing, we decided to take it further in a stationary position, off of the interstate. The big problems was different paradigms, predictions and thoughts as at what this will consist of. A few of us felt that this was always going to be a road trip. Where we would put many American miles under our belts. Others felt like making it a more personal journey through the country, experiencing everything a single place has to offer, progressing slowly. At the end we came to the conclusion that everyone imagined these few days differently and that we needed to do more research about the area. Thus we headed to the Indiana Visitor's Centre.

Unfortunately it was already closed. We saw this as a decision being made for us. That night we would spend close to the Visitor's centre. The next morning we spent another two hours to decide where to go and in all the confusion I think we all saw the light. Simultaneously we decided to make it the best of both worlds. We were going to give attentive detail to the country but also put a few miles between us and Chicago. Thus it worked out perfectly in the end. We never got tired of driving and we got to see a variety of people and places. You might wander as to what gave us the necessary insight and wisdom. It was after we prayed and began to make sacrifices on our own terms and began to think of the other people in the family that we could come to a conclusion. This was a special few days for me, not only because of the beautiful places we could see, but because of the insight on the way I would steer my life's direction, in the wake of God's leadership!

After the week of adventure, unfortunate confrontation and reconsolidating freedom we headed back towards Chicago. From the beginning, Chicago had been on our list of places we had to visit because of the Willow creek Community Church. So when we thought about the few days without agenda beforehand, we came to one agreement. We had to be back on the Sunday to go to the Willow service. Thus, when heading towards Chicago, after these few days, we stopped by Willow on our way there. It was then that we got another taste of a beautiful, working church in the will of God. Thinking back now, I can only thank and praise God for leading us to so many inspirational churches. There is truly nothing like the local church when it is functioning according to the will of God. Not only did the worship capture the individuals Spirit in the essence of God, but the sermon captivated the soul, enlightening God's greatness. We got to listen to David Nasser. I will elaborate more on his service next time. After this first enriching service at Willow we headed to our new house which would become our home away from home for the next 10 days.

This apartment was in the heart and soul of a beautiful part of the city. Certainly not the most wealthy part, but one of the most enjoyable parts. Yes, our new apartment was in Lincoln park. Not in down town but a bit to the north west. Still, it was near enough to jog to downtown and to see the John Hancock side of the skyline from the lake side. It was situated about 2,5 km from the great lake. Thus setting up a beautiful opportunity for jogging to and next to the lake. It is so beautiful in day and night that jogging really becomes a dream. It appeared as the destination where it would be perfect to get a few running miles behind our backs and as it appeared, it was.

We got up early some mornings and ran our hearts out. Other days we would take an afternoon run. This for me was the most special. Not because of the beautiful colors in the sky, but because of all the people that joined us in exercise. All around us, there appeared locals with roller blades, bikes and the ever trustworthy running shoe. Chicago is certainly a calorie burning machine! There are people who says that the location isn't that important when you run - I was one of those. When I first ran in Chicago my views changed. Running certainly is a breeze there! Although the breeze may be in my face, I still enjoedy it because of all the beauty and because of all the people doing it with you. I could also learn from this that when there are others doing something with you, it is easier, although they even might be headed in the other direction.

More about our apartment. The whole apartment was in an old, small Chicago house basement. It was a bit of a downsizing from the Atlanta house and mountain cabin, but it still was a lot more worth than a hotel room. We spend those ten days mostly in our small apartment. It was a fruitful week for work, but also an eye-opener to what city culture and diversity could be like. During our few afternoons and days off, we did a few memorable Chicago city ventures including the Willis Tower Sky Deck, Lincoln Park zoo, Millennium Park, Navy pier and the Museum of Science and Industry.

The Sky Deck was an experience that left me feeling above the clouds – literally! Beforehand, being a Namibian, I felt a strange sense of awe and admiration as well as a bit of fear staring at the humongous structure. Before even going up I could understand that the Lord truly wants us to reach our full potential for the age we live in. When climbing in the elevator I felt a bit unsure… This feeling was futile though, because the elevator started to move. We went up, and up and up, surpassing other structural landmarks on the way. When we rose above the Eifel with 20 floors to go, a new feeling entered my thoughts, excitement! After my ears popped a few times we got to the 103 floor… I stepped out and saw the beauty of a skyline I've seen before, only this time it was from above! Everything was breathtaking! The lake in the east, the sunset in the west, everything! When we got down I felt an aspiration to reach my full potential and let God take me to new heights in my life!

Lincoln Park zoo was on the list only because it is for free, one of very few zoos in the world that are still free. Summarizing that experience, I did feel a bit sorry for the creatures in captivity because my own spirit is free, but I saw it as an opportunity for people who do not have the privilege to go to the wild, to see these animals there! Millennium Park is coupled not only with beauty in sight but in hearing as well. We went to the park to see a full orchestra performance. It was my first an definitely not my last. It was beautiful, even though I do not have an expert's ear for music. It will bring out the classical side in Rambo!

The Navy pier, also synonymous to Chicago, was an experience of cultural hospitality and restful pleasure. When you walk on to the navy pier, you not only walk and see the skyline but you drift through all the cheerful laughter and restaurant smells. All around there are tourists busy buying tickets for a boat ride or standing in the line to buy a Bud light. The locals could be found on the bicycle / jogging / skating trail and in one of the many restaurants each with a unique and special atmosphere. We, on the other hand, could not be found on a boat trip, in a restaurant or in a line to buy beer. We had the lovely privilege of attending Aladdin, the musical, at the Shakespeare theater at the Navy pier. After that joyous, funny and intriguing experience, we enjoyed the essence of pleasant atmosphere and cheerful conversing by walking around the pier.

Another experience of a life time and a must do when visiting Chicago is a visit to the Museum of Science and Industry. Me and my two "engineer to be" brothers were the lucky ones selected to go. There were a lot of very interesting things, but I want to only name a few. We couldn't nearly get to everything it had to offer. I think that a annual pass wouldn't even be enough! Immediately when you enter, you are astonished by the mere size of the place, not even knowing of the beauties there are to follow. The highlight of the place was definitely the German WWII U-boat that was captured by the Americans during the war. It was a testament as to what man is capable of and how beautifully God has made us. Unfortunately it is also a symbol of how atrocious war is and how we should all keep striving for peace. I mean, you know something is bad, when the enemy that is captured is glad because they are freed from the clutches of war. Another highlight was the model train track from Chicago To Seattle occupying a whole hall. The detail and the story around it was astonishing. There was so much more we learned and enjoyed, but I do not have that much time to spend on blogging!

Before moving away from Lincoln Park, Tinus and I decided that Chicago is definitely the best place to attempt your first half-marathon. So, two nights before we moved closer to Willow, we decided to do it! We set off at about seven o'clock, planning to run in the dark on the way back to experience the skyline from all angles in all its lit up glory. The first 6 km were a breeze! Beautiful scenery and ABBA ringing in my ears, life seemed right. It was after 8 km that I started to feel a bit of pain in my leg, but I was still okay. The scenery of the sky line and lake kept changing and held remarkable beauty. When we turned at the half way mark it was completely different again. The Skyline now gave its own light and gave a totally new running inspiration! After 15km everything started to cramp up. I had pain in my legs in places I didn't know existed ! We kept on going despite the pain and finally reached the finish line. It was a big achievement! Although everything was sore for the next week, I felt great!

I hope You understand a bit more of the beauty of Chicago now and feel part of the city. In my next blog I will elaborate on the last week in Chicago, which is all about the Leadership summit!

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