After a two-hour delay at the Detroit airport due to uncertain weather conditions surrounding Chicago, I’ve finally arrived. I am hungry and exhausted, no thanks to unrelenting frets about wayward baggage keeping me awake most of the trip (can I be more aunty?).

But I am here, luggage and nerves (mostly) intact.

I’d forgotten how interesting subway rides can be, albeit a little different for a Malaysian who?s only been on brand new transit trains and sparkling clean Singaporean ones. I guess it makes the whole experience more authentic, old and seasoned as the transit is with graffiti on the walls and newspapers scattered on its floors and what smelled like old cabbage. Called the CTA, the train zipped through districts I’d only heard about in movies and on TV, like Harlem and Rosemont and “Grand and Milwaukee”.

Fatigue weighed heavy on my lids after the fifth or sixth stop, but just as my lids began to droop, the train started to fill up with its morning commuters all no doubt making their way to work. Sharp-looking ladies in tailored suits. Yuppies in ties talking on hand phones. Old-uppies in ties talking on hand phones. Asian women with highly suspect LV/Prada handbags in cheap pumps talking on hand phones. Young boys in caps and rap gear “crib-walking” into the train (I kid you not!). I even saw an honest-to-goodness (or badness?) punk with hard-as-rocks gelled up spikes, studded pants and dog chain things with silver rivets the size of M&Ms.

You’d think the graffiti and faint, familiar smell of urine would kick in my Malaysian street smarts. Alas, 18 months of communing in pastures among cows and horses have rendered my once razor-sharp street survival senses temporarily obtuse. All too quickly, paranoia took siege of my aunty brain once more. The fact that I was not in the pristine, safe and geek-infested suburbs of Seattle quickly dawned and I wondered how quickly it would take to mug me, this obviously out-of-towner Asian lady with her brand new Canon Exilim camera dangling around her neck which she is using to snap photos of everything that does NOT move (because the anti-shake feature doesn’t work very well) and her Microsoft MEDC backpack and her clumsy duffel bag which is OBVIOUSLY too big for the overhead compartment.

If I put $35 in my very accessible right pocket, would it make the ordeal go faster?

Just where am I blogging this? At the Chicago Public Library (what is safer than a library, I ask you?). After the hour-long subway ride, I’d tumbled out from a station called LaSalle, into the bright sunshine and what is downtown Chicago. Stopping once to check directions I’d printed out at home, I’d started walking towards what I’d hoped to be Eastwards on Congress Parkway, because, well, a compass AND a camera? I may as well just surrender my possessions to the nearest mugger and be done with it.

And so, I thought I’d just park at the library (which is next to my hostel, which I’d managed to find out of dumb luck – an essential when you travel alone – which I can only check into in five hours). So here I am, writing down all these things in case I really do get mugged.

Well, I really shouldn’t be hiding at the library, should I? I should be out there, walking about, exploring, taking more pictures!

Lokes is calling me, telling me to stay away from ‘bad-looking areas’. I shall do my best seeing that I seem to be living right smack in the middle of these ‘bad-looking’ areas.

ps. the library does not seem to like me uploading pictures. I will need to try elsewhere.