Monday, April 9, 2012

Friends and Adventures

Hello there friends! We have been having such a great spring here in the Windy City. Hubby and I are really starting to make friends and find our place in this metropolis. He’s been playing tennis a few days a week with friends and with a league that he joined. I’ve been exploring the city now that the weather has warmed up so nicely.
One of my new friends is Margerita. She is a lovely woman who moved here from Kosovo a few years ago with her husband. Her history is incredibly interesting and quite tragic, given her forced involvement in the Bosnian war just over a decade ago. To give just a brief explanation of some of her experiences, she remembers being dragged out of her home with her family, stuffed into the overhead luggage compartment of a train, and then taken out to the mountains of Macedonia where she and hundreds others were dropped off with nothing more than each other and the clothes on their back, all in the middle of winter. I don’t know how she survived. Not only did she survive, but she is now thriving, happy, and she has moved on. Most incredibly, she has forgiven. We work with a few women who are of the ethnicity that caused her and her family such harm, and she holds nothing against them. She understands that, while their ancestors and relatives may have been involved, they had nothing to do with it and are now only a part of her new, peaceful American life. What a beautiful heart she has!

Margerita and I went for a stroll the other day. I had to go north to pick out some yarn for my Nephew’s birthday present and so I invited her along to explore that area. After picking up some beautiful yarn, we walked along the Ravenswood gardens. These gardens are planted along the side of the Metro track for nearly a mile. They are such a beautiful use of otherwise unusable urban space. There is a group of volunteers that tends to the gardens every Saturday morning, and Margerita and I are planning to help out at least a few times this spring and summer.
I'm growing my hair out and I pulled it back for the day!! A new look for this girl!
Across the street from the gardens was a sweet little family-owned distillery called Koval, so we popped in to see what it was all about. We were unable to tour at that time, but we enjoyed the smells and seeing all of the interesting whiskeys, liquors, and vodkas they had.  
Our next stop was a Middle Eastern grocery store and bakery that we stumbled upon. Much of the food she grew up with was heavily influenced by Middle Eastern traditions, and so she recognized so many things in the grocery store that I had never seen before. There were a few teas and snacks there that she had never seen before, but that I was able to explain to her a bit. I am by no means an expert on teas, but I am most certainly a lover and consumer of teas! I found some lovely hibiscus tea and my very favorite tea, Moroccan Mint! I also found some whole honey comb for Hubby!

After our fun in the grocery store, we stopped in at a café called Icosium for some coffee and to snack on the bakery that we had just bought. It was a very unique Algerian café with gorgeous antique textiles all over the walls and even the seats! Talk about living the good life! We felt like queens. After coffee and girl talk, it was nearly time that our husbands would be coming home, so we parted ways, looking forward to our next day at work together.

Just a few days after my outing with Margerita, I had another wonderful day with another wonderful friend. Well, several wonderful friends I suppose! Hubby and I were planning on going to a Roller Derby with a group of friends from church. After a morning of playing tennis, he had far too much homework to do to consider spending the entire afternoon and evening out with friends. So I called on my friend Sarah to join me instead!

Sarah is another friend from work, but it almost feels like we grew up together! She also grew up in rural Eastern Wisconsin. Her family owns a large herd of sheep and she loves to knit. We even have some family friends in common! After working with Sarah for a couple months, I invited her out for coffee and knitting. We ended up spending nearly a whole day, from 10am to 5pm, knitting together at the coffee shop! We had such a great time and our friendship quickly grew from there.

When I asked her to accompany me to the Roller Derby, she graciously and enthusiastically accepted the invitation, and even came out for dinner and drinks beforehand! Our friends from church warmly welcomed her and we had such a great time.
Neither of us had ever seen a roller derby before, so it was quite a learning experience for both of us. Although there is plenty of strategy, strength, and training involved, our basic idea of the sport is that two teams of roller-skating women chase one another around a rink, while boxing out and otherwise taking out the other team. There are different positions and different purposes for each position, but I would say that’s about the gist of it to a first-timer.
Our Windy City Rollers (WCR Second Wind) kicked butt!

Other highlights of the derby included a kilt-donning official (referee),
 a cute half-time performance, and the puppet show we saw on our way to the game. Or rather, the bout as they say.
This city isn’t turning out to be too bad. Here are a few more photos from my outings.
The spring breezes in this windy city carry the scent of flowering trees all over the city!

XOXO Natalie

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