Downtown Chicago is busier than downtown Seattle. The sound of sirens roaring down the streets seem to have a rhythm, a pattern to them, constant, consistent, predictable – which makes them all the more frightening because are there so many tragedies taking place in one day? So many calamities? It is unimaginable. Makes me appreciate Seattle more, and wonder if Northwesterners are really not a bit more sheltered.

The streets of Chicago are also denser, the traffic unforgiving. Unlike in Seattle, when a siren roars from afar, everybody moves away obediently. Here, the sirens from fire engines, ambulances and police cars seem to have to go right up to the meandering vehicles, taxis especially, and bark to remind them who’s boss.

Chicago is filled with colleges and artists and artsy destinations. I am now sitting opposite the Art Institute of Chicago, eating Guinness Stout infused buffalo wings and a spinach salad, not sure if I can go in. It says “Free Evenings, Thursdays and Fridays!” There is a Members entrance and another entrance for…non-members? Visitors? Curious passers-by who would like to take up an interest in the arts but are shy and do not want to spend $40 on a ticket only to go in and not know what she has paid for to see.

I shall try tomorrow then.

The waiter comes and hands me the check.

“Where are you from?” The camera is a dead giveaway.

I want to say Malaysia, but he has no time to hear me decipher my country.

“Seattle,” I answer, smiling.

“Ooh, long way.”

NO idea.