Everyone knows that despite which ever city you live in, if it has a Chinatown, it can be kind of kitschy. I know, I know, Chinatown is for tourists. The one in Chicago is pretty much the same. Its not as though I’ve been avoiding this great little neighborhood just south of the loop, but admittedly it’s been years since I have spent any real time here. Truthfully, I had forgotten how much fun Chicago’s Chinatown can be on a lazy Monday evening. Sure its a tourist trap, but where else can you get your Hello Kitty fix, overdose on fruit smoothies packed with black tapioca the size of your head, and find laughing Buddhas of every shape, size and color, all before sitting down to some delicious Dim Sum?
Chicago’s Chinatown may not be as big as some the ones in other American cities, but every square foot is jammed packed with restaurants, shops and grocery stores, and it is definitely a worth while way to spend your day. For more info on Chicago’s Chinatown check out: http://chicagochinatown.org/.
Last week was National Volunteer Week. I had the pleasure of volunteering with a few ladies from the Women in the World – Chicago travel meetup (formerly Go Girls – Chicago). We spent the day sorting shoes for an amazing organization called Share Your Soles, which sends donated shoes to poor communities all across the world.
Founder, Mona Purdy, started the charity after seeing impoverished children in Guatemala paint hot tar onto the bottoms of their feet because they didn’t have shoes. She began her organization in 1999 and, over the years, has shipped tens of thousands of pairs of shoes to people in Central America, Southeast Asia, the Caribbean, Africa, the U.S., and Eastern Europe. Mona relies solely (no pun intended) on the efforts of volunteers to clean, repair, and pack shoes and boots for men, women, and children. I, for one, was happy to do my small part.
Standing in the Share Your Soles warehouse amongst thousands of pairs of shoes, it really brought home how many people around the world go without something that I have always taken for granted. Sure, I’d seen photos and videos of people walking barefoot, but I had no idea that so many adults and children actually have to have their feet amputated due the severity of the injuries and infections that they sustain.
Spending the day at Share Your Soles, was not only an opportunity to take a few hours to give back, but it was a much needed reminder of what one woman can do when she puts her mind to it. Thanks Mona Purdy for being simply amazing!
As a photographer and a painter, I am always envious of large-scale sculptors or installation artists. It takes a lot of courage to put your work on display for the general public to look at while they are out on the streets shopping or picking up lunch. It takes a special kind of courage to act as a gorilla-artist and put that work on display out in the open without ever being paid for your efforts. In my neighborhood, some unknown artist or group of artists decided to put up this amazing 12-foot holiday ornament complete with colorful lights with the sole intent of spreading a bit of cheer to passersby. I for one am very grateful for their efforts. Thanks random anonymous artist(s), you rock!
Ah, presents and the joys of gift giving!
Although I am clear that there is so much more to the Spirit of Christmas than buying or making gifts to give to our loved ones, presents are a very big part of the holiday season. When else do we dedicate so much of our time and effort solely to focusing on seeking out clothing, tools, toys, and gadgets purely for the purpose of bringing happiness to others? For various reasons, I personally did not give or get any presents this year, however, I can usually be found getting carried away with gift giving. I love searching for that perfect gift for someone special, scouring for the absolute best rock bottom prices, and gift wrapping myself into a fine frenzy until each and every package looks like a perfect work of art. Now that Christmas is officially over in most parts of the world, it does my heart good to think of the little ones resting comfortably in their beds with visions of their favorite new gift dancing in their dreams. Tomorrow they will awake ready to give that new toy or gift yet another spin. Christmas mavens like myself will also rise early to hit the stores or the internet intent on getting a head start on spotting great bargains on next year’s presents with a bit of a smile and a lightness of heart.
On I-75 North somewhere between Florida and Tennessee stands one awesome Georgia rest stop. I suppose it more of a Visitors Center actually, complete with maps, pamphlets, friendly Georgia tourism information agents and exceptionally clean restrooms.
The best part is the comfy chill-out area with flat screen tv and groovy leather sofas complete with lumbar support. I’ve got to admit, it was pretty hard to get back behind the wheel of the rental car after stretching my legs in such a swanky rest stop.
If only I could remember exactly where it is, so that I could be sure to stop back by during my next road trip. Thanks to this place, I’ve definitely “got Georgia on my mind.”
Have you come across any awesome rest areas on your recent road trips?
Today is Easter Monday, also known as Bright Monday or Renewal Monday.
Easter Monday is observed in many areas around the world including Canada, Poland and France. In these countries you’ll find lots of people off from work and out in their neighborhoods enjoying traditions such as Divine Liturgies, religious processions and feasting with family and friends.
My favorite way to spend Easter Monday? Checking out amazing Easter trees on Pinterest. It’s not exactly a tradition, but it is crazy addictive! What’s your favorite Easter activity or tradition?
More information on The Chicago Cultural Center.