As you can see from this photo it is very cold and windy in Chicago but we had a warm and lovely day because we spent it with our friends Kelly and Aaron Weiss and their beguiling daughter Cora. Aaron was a history teacher at ICS in Hong Kong and Kelly worked in the Advancement Department. They moved back to Chicago in 2008. Even though I had never met their daughter Cora before I felt like I knew her because Kelly writes a daily blog First Time Fish which I follow, and so I keep up with all of Cora’s activities and milestones. She was every bit as sweet in person as she is in Kelly’s blog.
Aaron, who is a Social Studies teacher at Walter Payton, a college prep high school here in Chicago was at work when we arrived at the Weiss’ apartment this morning, but Kelly and Cora welcomed us and after a short visit we set off to see the Bahai Temple, the only one in North America. Kelly works for the Chicago public school system doing productization for a very interesting school improvement project, but she only starts that job full-time in January, so for now she is still home a couple of days a week, and luckily for us, today happened to be one of those days. I didn’t know that much about the Bahai faith before visiting the temple but I learned they accept all religions as having value and there is only one temple on each continent. They have no clergy and no formal methods like baptism for joining the church. You simply indicate your willingness to become a member and can start meeting with one of their small communities which generally gather in people’s homes for study, prayer and fellowship.
Their goals are to help eliminate prejudice, achieve equality between men and women, harmonize science and religion, bring about world peace, find spiritual solutions to economic problems and establish universal education. Great ideals and pretty compatible with what Jesus taught.
Kelly and Cora took us to a very family friendly restaurant called Costellos for lunch. There were lots of other children there and a musician entertaining. After lunch Cora and Dave took naps and Kelly and I had a good visit about Hong Kong times and people, and what’s going on in our lives now. Perhaps because we read each other’s blogs it felt like we could just pick up our conversation where we left off when Kelly and Aaron moved home from Hong Kong. Since Cora was still napping when it was time to pick Aaron up from work, Dave and I went to get him and on the drive home he told us more about his school. The students are chosen for Walter Payton from elementary public schools all over the city because of their intellectual promise and dedication to their studies. 98% of the graduates go on to college or university and the school offers 23 Advanced Placement courses. Their school is home to the Confucius Institute which provides resources and programming for learning about the Chinese language and culture. When the Chinese president Hu Jintao visited the United States last year he paid a visit to Aaron’s school. Aaron runs the model United Nations program at Walter Payton. Interestingly Rosana, a former ICS student of Aaron’s who we visited yesterday, is helping to plan the Model United Nations events for high schools at Northwestern University which Aaron and his Walter Payton students will attend. Talk about connections!
Since it was such a cold and windy night we decided to stay in for supper. Dave had his heart set on having one of the deep dish pizzas Chicago is so famous for, so he and Aaron went and picked up a sausage and spinach pizza from Giordanos. NBC has dubbed Giordanos pizza the “best in the world ” and The New York Times calls it the “Ultimate Pizza.” People literally order these pizzas shipped to them from all over the world. Deep dish pizza has a crust made from olive oil and cornmeal that is about 3 inches tall and the crust is filled with oceans of cheese and sauce. Our meal was delicious and extremely filling. Over dinner we talked about the possibility of Aaron, Kelly and Cora visiting us in Winnipeg some day, the Masters course Aaron is taking, books and movies set in Chicago and our families.
The highlight of the day for me was having so much fun with Cora. Here we are playing with play doh. We did puzzles together, looked at books, sang songs, combed each others hair, Cora showed me her favorite hiding places, she drew pictures for me and we shared raisins. Dave and I are going to become grandparents in April so I enjoyed some ‘grandma practice time’ with Cora.
What next? Tomorrow we are going to spend the day sightseeing and then in the evening have dinner at the home of a Hong Kong friend, Karen Lee.