you are now (now being a few weeks ago in early august) in chicago. with a background you like but with no friends around. so it will remain people less. but how you wish you could have heads poking out behind some of those pillars for a fun photo.
but what a great find – painted walls, pillars, and arches under a bridge. such are the advantages of walking. you mentally add this bridge to your list of great future backgrounds to revisit one day.
this alone time doesn’t last long though. it’s one of your favorite yala yala buddies - along with his moustache – and a nalgene. the other yy buddy will join a few days later.
a coup was not going to kill this friendship. and what better place to meet up than chicago? it’s the perfect meeting point for someone from indiana, iowa, and texas. oh, and a concert by amadou & miriam at a music festival helps too.
and penguins are some of the animals you see. dolphins, belugas, whales, local fish, amazon insects, and coral reefs are also spotted here at the shedd aquarium.
the next day – a picnic! the strangest part of this malian friendship is that the friendship was rarely formed around food. oh, time was spent complaining, bragging, raving, and dreaming about food, but rarely did you three actually cook or eat together. so here in chicago, you are determined to change that. michigan blueberries, bacon quiche, and a salad do make for a perfect lunch.
more walking. you make a comment about how you refuse to believe that lake michigan is a lake. it’s just too nice and too much like an ocean.
at the bean, like real chicagoans.
suddenly your american names are dropped. it is cekoro, madu, and mase who are hanging out. who are drinking beers. who are eating. who are cracking jokes. who are making fun of one another. who are gossiping about other peace corps volunteers. who are recounting a certain bullshit ice cream story with a 24 year old joke. who are momentarily back in mali.
sadly these moments don’t last long. the first yala yala buddy catches his flight out. so from three its back down to two. but in the end, you win – you got to spend the most time together with them individually and as a group.
then the second YY buddy has to return to iowa. but he extends an invitation to you as well.
“are you sure?” you ask, because “my flight still leaves from chicago and I don’t think I can change that.”
“i don’t mind,” is what he responds.
it looks like corn fields are on the agenda then.
and a snake. time to turn around on this iowan island.
back in illinois on the way to a state park, you spot wild turkeys with wild turkey chicks. by the time you pulled out the camera (and made the YY buddy reverse the car) the mother turkey had already sounded the alarm for the chicks to go into hiding.
it’s an improvised camping trip here at starved rock state park.
a call from someone looking for peanuts. a cherry pit spitting contest. a hunt for a cork screw. a tent with missing poles. assembling s’mores. seeing stars for the first time since leaving mali. friendly neighbors. these are just some of your favorite moments.
here you learn why bald eagles can be found here in winter. it’s because when most lakes and rivers freeze over thus making dinner a bit hard to catch, the eagles flock to where non frozen water can be found. specifically, at dams.
and as you gape at this surprise sunset, you hope that as the YY buddy drives west back to iowa that he’s seeing something this stunning as well.