The Windy City, IL

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-Oh, you’ll love Chicago- that’s what EVERYONE who’s ever been there told me. And so I did. It was different than I imagined it would be, but I still loved it. It’s such a charming place. Stockholm used to be my only No.1, but now I have two No.1. They’re very different, but both very beautiful and very charming. And windy. I had no idea that’s what they call Chicago, but I can see why.

In Chicago, S.O.U.L. performed in Alexander Bell Elementary and Kelly High School. Except for in Chicago, we performed in Crystal Lake last week, and, well, Bloomington, Indiana, as well, because that was Sunday. But let’s focus on Illinois.

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S.O.U.L. at Kelly High School

I think I should start with Monica. Monica was the person who organized our week long stay in Chicago. And Monica is… Monica is the person who made me and Shih- Hao look at each other when getting into SOUL train ready to hit the road from Chicago to Bloomington, holding the cinnamon- apple muffins that she made for us (on our way from Chicago to Bloomington) with watery eyes. I just told him:

-I know!

So, yeah, that’s Monica. And, I already wrote that in some of the previous posts, but I know that people from outside of America, make fun of people in USA of how everything there is amazing and everyone is great and fabulous and everywhere is beautiful… (when I say ‘some people’ make fun, I think of myself and my friends. I know… I don’t do that anymore, because I’m in America, so I write all this so that when my friends would want to make fun of me, they can sure try, but it’s not going to be that funny because I made fun of myself first! Ha! Who’s making fun of me now?!) Well, anyway, sometimes, some places, some people and some events are beautiful, fabulous and amazing. And one of those people is Monica.

-When we bought this house we knew it was too big. It was so big. It is big! But we said we would buy it, but we would always invite people to come and stay at our house.

Of course, she said that in a more beautiful way, but… wow. That’s exactly what her family is doing, sharing all that they have.

We met Monica’s daughter Audrey and her son Walker, who are both insanely talented musicians. She is 12 and plays the violin and he’s 16 and plays the piano. I don’t even know how to describe how they play and even if I would use the most beautiful words to describe it, you still wouldn’t get the idea of how good they are, because it’s not that they’re good compared to other kids. Oh, I wish, but hell no. They are amazingly amazing compared to other professional musicians. They ARE professional musicians. That’s SICK, that’s so SICK, but they played a violin piece together, it lasted for about 10 min, Audrey knew it by heart (’cause, what kid doesn’t know her 10 min long violin piece by heart, right?!), and for about 9min 45 sec I was like this:

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I didn’t do it for the remaining 15 sec because I fainted.

Anyway, Monica and her family are truly amazing. I enjoyed spending time with them, esp during the potluck/ hootenanny event that we had on Friday. We were at Monica’s and there was A LOT of great musicians who played all night. When we were supposed to go home, everyone was like: yeah, yeah, of course… can we play just this one last piece? (And it was like that all 6 times. I mean, there was Walker, the professional 16 year old accompanist who could read without any problems all the scores I gave him, of course I wanted to play and sing with him! All 18 times in a row) Of course, quartet performed as well, and now it’s safe to say that Taiwanese song Dalubaling is our No. 1 song. I mean… who wouldn’t love a song about a lake and a girl who falls in love with a boy… But the boy is actually (wait for it) a snake?! I know I love it!

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Except for spending time with Monica’s family, I stayed with two host families, both of which were great. The W Family, they were all musicians, except for the mom Ronnie, who was (just like Tom) a wonderful audience! But I had a great time jamming with the rest of the family. And another reason why I loved them so, was because they took me out for Thai food and to see ‘Kiss me, Kate’. Oh, I will so marry a man who will take care of me by providing food and music. (And money, humor, intelligence, looks, charm, height, strong hands (I really like that) etc.)

And then there was The Canadian P Family! My host mom Shadell was a singer. Btw, since I’m trying hard to make this a non-too-boring-blog-in-case-some-crazy-person-feels-like-reading-this I need to share the story of how she got the name Shadell. Her dad went to a party on which he met this lady whose name was Shadell. So he thinks:

-Wow, what a beautiful name!

The name haunted him for years! And after he got married to Shadell’s mom and they figured they would have a daughter, he said she needs to have the most beautiful name he’s heard of, which was Shadell, so her mom said she liked the name and that was fine with her. A couple of years later, Shadell’s dad bumped into the lady she met on the party. He immediately told her:

-Hey, I don’t know if you remember me! But we met a few years ago on this one party… anyway, I loved your name so much that I named my daughter like that!

-Oh, really?! So, how does she like the name Rochelle?

Shadell’s daughters Chelsea and Maya are talented in every way. They are both great singers, Chelsea plays the violin (and was born July 17th, so she’s even better than she would be if she was born on a different day) and Maya is a phenomenal dancer. You can also easily tell they have a great taste in music, since they did this:

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I know. Aren’t they adorable? I also got a note and a Chicago T- shirt from their mom. Oh my. I already performed wearing it in Indiana. ‘Cause that’s the way to do it. If you get a T-shirt representing one state you should definitely wear it in a different one. While performing. If you want to cause trouble and injuries. (At least that would be the case with different soccer teams in Croatia. But then again, I did that already. In 8th grade, I wore a Polish jersey on the day of a soccer match Croatia vs. Poland. Tako mi je zakljucena 4 iz povijesti i tako sam zaradila prosjek 4.9. Da prostacim, sada bih zamislila neku prostu rijec.)

In Alexander Bell I met two wonderful teachers. One of themworks there and has hosted S.O.U.L. for many years, so she was very familiar with the project, as well as all of us (that awkward moment when people you just meet know all about you, because they read your bio. Then again, it’s very nice that they did, because it’s shows that they actually respect and show interest in what you do. Yet, it doesn’t mean it’s not awkward). Now, for real, she was so supportive and happy with us, it was a pleasure to perform for her and her students. Also, we got a great question that day. After we explained that each of the singers comes from a different country and a different continent (Uruguay, Taiwan, Nigeria and Croatia), and had time for questions, a boy asked: -so, are you all Japanese?

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That just might be it.

Our lovely host families took us to the Wallnut Room, which is a super fancy restaurant at the top floor of Macy’s. I saw The Millennium Park, The Cloud Gate, all the tall buildings, The Borders, visited The Art Institute of Chicago, went to The Second City and Chicago Board of Trade, went to a concert of classical music at The Cultural Centre, had an impromptu performance at a music shop, because… when you’re in a music shop with your vocal quartet and touch all the instruments in there and blow all the flutes they have (don’t be perv), then you fell you owe a little concert to the people who didn’t kick you out of the store.

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The Borders (Find a man in USA taller than myself- check)
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Impromptu concert at the music store, because of the instrument abuse…
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The Art Institute
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I tried really hard to export The Cloud Gate (BEAN) to Croatia.

And then there was Crystal Lake. My host mom from Crystal Lake, Pat, sent me an e-mail before I arrived, asking what do I like to eat and do followed by ‘We would like you to feel at home for your short stay here’. Oh, and I did, I really did. It’s so important to have a nice place to stay when you do this job, and Pat as well as her husband Tom definitely provided me a fantastic home. The first night, Pat and I had a little jam session, since Pat is a guitar player. She went to get here songbooks and we just went with the flow! Tom was a patient audience. It wouldn’t surprise me if he would just become a patient afterwards, but thankfully, I think he survived it despite my singing.

We had two concerts at McHenry County College, and, to be honest, I was surprised by the large number of people, (esp considering the fact that there was a (surprise surprise) snowstorm). And then, whenever there’s a snowstorm going on, people feel that special snowstorm connection, it’s like a strong snowstorm bond that unites everyone, therefore, we met some really nice people afterwards.

Or maybe they were just nice because Shih-Hao said, when introducing the quartet, that we are 4 beautiful (instead of ‘professional’) singers. Which is not that obvious for most of the time. But when you let them know we are, they might as well believe that. And everyone likes beautiful people. Because they’re beautiful. Unless you hate them because they’re beautiful.

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McHenry County College
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McHenry County College

And then, after we left Crystal Lake, Pat took me with her daughter Katie to see a show in The Second City, and Tom took me to The Board of Trade. I don’t remember laughing as much as I did during the show in The Second City. In fact, this was my Fb status the day after:

“About 9 years ago I made a confession to my mom. It was very hard for me, but eventually I told her I would like to be a singer. She didn’t take it very well. Partially because she thought I might be mentally challenged and end up on the street because of my hopes and partially because she never heard me singing (although I don’t know why did she have to make such a big deal out of it. She heard me singing like 6 years later, so it’s not like I refused to sing in front of her all my life). Well, yesterday I’ve been to The Second City, which is a stand up comedy club in Chicago (in which Tina, The Great, Fey hit it off with her career) and I have another confession to make… and I know my mom would love it to be ‘I am a boy in a female’s body’… but, no, mom, I’m sorry… apart from being a singer (and a lawyer in my free time), I really want to be a comedian. I know this must come as a shock to you (if you spent the last ten years of my life raising someone else’s children), and I know I couldn’t have picked worse careers, but at least I promise not to be a beggar! Although that would probably at least make a living… well, maybe we’ll take that as an option, you know, just in case.
Well… at least I’m not a boy in a female’s body! I might be a man, though.”

Anyway. That was fun!

And the last time I saw Tom, that day he took me to The Board of Trade, on Thursday, he told me (although he has said that to me before)- and if you ever need anything, don’t hesitate to ask. Remember, you’re family now. From now on, always.

Of course, I cried like a baby after he left, ’cause there is no better place to cry like a baby then Downtown Chicago. It was just a part of my comedy routine… to see if people find seeing water drops falling down your face funny. I guess not, but, I’m a beginner, so… you know.

Anyway, Illinois was amazing, and both Crystal Lake and Chicago, The Windy City, blew me away. Literally.

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What?! It was cold outside! A friend in need is a friend indeed.

Stay warm!



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