Summer has officially come to an end. For
me, it was three incredible months of working, sleeping,
learning, sleeping, traveling, and of course, sleeping. It
was a blast. A bang. A flaming load of fun.
A couple of weeks ago, I went to Chicago
to visit some colleges and to just see the magnificent city(
No exaggeration here, Chicago is officially the world’s most
beautiful city. Sorry Houston). Mom, being Chinese, forty,
and therefore crazily economical, decided to room us in an
international hostel instead of the five-star Hilton across
But I have to say, though the price was
cheap, the hostel was definitely not. It was a well-kept
ten-story modernist building that fit right in with the
landscape of downtown Chicago’s sea of amazing architectural
creations. The people there were all eager to help plan your
sight-seeing route, and though you bunk with five other
people, the room was clean, capacious, and comfortable.
So after several days there, I got used
to sleeping on the top bunk, hearing the city talk at night,
and chatting up fellow roomies, whom by the way were all
very interesting. One lady from Santa Monica was visiting
some relatives and always came back to the room around four
in the morning. Funny thing was, she used to be a Metro bus
driver in Chicago and just moved a few years ago. After
hearing this, mom hounded her with questions about which
buses to take, and she patiently helped us map our whole
Another woman came to catch a play that
her niece was in. She was a glamorous little lady who slept
with satin jammies on her body and hot rollers in her hair.
And then there was a Chinese student from Shanghai who
planned to go to Saint Louis for college but got deterred
from her route because one of the trains crashed in Chicago.
So anyway, as you can see, I roomed with an eclectic bunch
of people who each had an interesting story.
One night, while deep in sleep after a
whole day’s exhausting walk downtown, I suddenly heard a
loud echoing siren coming from the ceiling. I first thought
my ears were hallucinating, but suddenly the lady across
from me bolted up from bed too. In my groggy state, I dimly
realized it was a fire alarm.
Then in surreal composure I climbed down
the bunk ladder and gathered all our precious things from
the locker. Now everyone in the room was up and scrambling
to decide what to take and what to leave behind. That was a
crazy moment, the moment when you decide what could be left
to burn and what you had to carry away. Mom and I quickly
took the video camera and our purses and decided to leave
all the luggage since they would be very cumbersome in the
chaos of a great fire.
The poor lady next to me in her
hot-rollers and lacy satin slip was trembling to open her
locker. At last, with a sigh, she was in such a panic that
she couldn’t even remember her locker combination and walked
out of the room without anything.
Bathed in the lurid light of the hallway,
hundreds of people swarmed out of all the doors, women with
mint-green facial masks, men without shirts with sleep marks
on their chest; it was comical really, to see these
strangers in their most vulnerable, blood-shot,
three-o-clock-in-the-morning disposition. I swear, about
fifty of us crammed into that little elevator while the rest
flew down the stairs. However, just when we got to ground
floor, the sirens suddenly stopped.
In the main lobby, a hostel full of
bed-headed people in colorful pajamas eyed the receptionist
for an explanation. Cornered, he gave a nervous, wavery
smile and told us that it was just a false alarm. All of us
stared in disbelief, and I even heard some curse words in
the back; but in the end, we trudged back to our rooms
feeling very annoyed. When I got back to bed, I saw the poor
little lady again trying to remember her locker combination.
This time, she finally was able to open it.
So there’s the highlight of my summer.
Although the fire never occurred, the experience was