Sunrise in Lake Michigan

March 02 2013

It's around 30ºF (-1 ºC) in Chicago right now. We just saw the first substantial snow of the new year and as a kid who grew up in West Coast suburbia, I never would have imagined myself saying, "I have come to appreciate everything that the city of Chicago offers." These include:

1. Wearing boots, scarves and gloves. Now when I watch television, movies, and my West Coast friends wear any such accessories to look fashionable, I've gained the assumptive habit of chuckling.
2. 'Checking the weather' involves more than opening your window in a city that shines in the morning, snows in the afternoon and rains at night (if you're lucky, in that order).
3. Appreciate food from pizza to kimchi pork belly fries to what I think is the best vegetarian food I've ever had (a seitan reuben in a vegan diner).
4. Love schizophrenic/varied architecture forms from "cold, utilitarian" modernism, to Asian-influenced, prairie-style living, to buildings in the Untouchables, and Wilco album covers.
5. Comprehend what it means for a public schools system with over 110,000 students a year to have 6 of every 100 students earning a bachelor's degree by the age of 25
6. Learned what it really means to have 'gang violence' [I highly recommend this paper for anybody interested in the institutionalization of modern gangs]. 
7. Understood that many urban, big-city issues do not emerge as individual human failure or corruption per se, but simply institutional failure—failures of scale: our police, our local companies, our education system, our local government, our local media. These issues at large transcend so many supposedly 'correct' political/popular theories. For example, it is incredibly difficult to creditWilliam Bratton, COMPSTAT and Broken Windows theory for the success of NY crime decline, when the actual crime began falling several years prior throughout the US
8. Grown to appreciate sunrises on Lake Michigan

But really more than anything, I've learned to appreciate being uncomfortable. I found this quote to express what I mean:  "To my mind, the greatest reward and luxury of travel is to be able to experience everyday things as if for the first time, to be in a position in which almost nothing is so familiar it is taken for granted. // Bill Bryson" and more than anything I am incredibly grateful of the opportunity I've had uprooting all of my childhood comforts towards starting something new, difficult and just different.

Vincent Yu
[email protected]
Chicago, IL

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