Sunday, May 30, 2010

An Instructive Story on Culture Shock

Anyone who has traveled within 100 miles of their home has probably experienced culture shock to some degree. Culture shock in basic terms is the act of being introduced to an unfamiliar environment or situation. CS runs the gamut from noticing that your new bathroom is a hole in the ground to realizing that your host family won't truly accept you until you've downed at least 4 shots of homemade whiskey. CS can be extremely frustrating, but in many cases it is also hilarious and instructive in the different ways people view the world. In that vein, here is an Onion-like parody of culture shock in Thailand:

American Tourist Accidentally Breaks Every Faux Pas in Thailand

CHIANG MAI, Thailand – A Michigan man was arrested in Thailand this afternoon after reportedly breaking every Thai faux pas in less than five minutes.

John Lakes, 37, has been taken into custody by Thai police after a mob of offended Thais surrounded him outside of a Buddhist temple in the northern Thai city of Chiang Mai. “I was so offended! There is no other word for it,” local university student Kanya Bakul told reporters Tuesday.

Witnesses claim Lakes was surrounded by angry Thais at around 4:30 Tuesday afternoon after committing a series of faux pas within Wat Chedi Luang. “He vomited on the Buddha!” one elderly monk remarked, referring to a sacred reclining Buddha image housed in one of the pavilions on the grounds. The monk, who wished to remain nameless, finished the interview with, “In Thailand we believe in jai yen, or cool heart, but I want him to f***** die!”

“I don’t know what happened,” Nikom Shinawatra, Lakes’ tour guide, was overheard telling police. “One minute I’m giving him congealed chicken blood to try, and all of a sudden he starts looking really queasy! He asked if it was tofu, and I said, ‘No, it’s chicken’s blood,’ and that was it.”

After apparently eating the Thai snack, Lakes ran into the chamber of the Buddha image and projectile vomited over the image, along with a local family that was being blessed by a monk. “We can never pray for luck again,” one tearful little girl said, pulling a wet noodle out of her hair. “The Buddha must be displeased with us.”

In his haste, Lakes further offended Thais by not removing his dirty shoes when he entered the temple. After Lakes finished throwing up, he then pulled out a twenty baht note, printed with the image of the venerated king of Thailand, and proceeded to wipe his face with it. Several monks then tried to restrain him before he could commit any more horrifying acts.

Lakes, possibly relieved to have assistance, handed the twenty baht note to one of the monks. The monk, who had previously taken a vow not to touch money, dropped the note with alarm and ran from the room screaming. Lakes, reportedly six-foot-three, then finished the series of faux pas by using the heads of the remaining two monks to help balance himself as he stumbled. The head is considered the most sacred part of the body in Thailand, and at this point a crowd of on-lookers grabbed Lakes and threw him into the courtyard outside the building. Luckily for Lakes, police arrived at the scene at the same time.

“I was going to go all muay thai on his ass,” one young man told a foreign journalist, referring to the national martial art of Thailand. “I know it’s a stereotype that all Asians know martial arts, but it’s true.”

Lakes, who has not yet turned up at any police station, could not be reached for comment.

“I am really excited to visit Chiang Mai,” Lakes wrote in his blog, NoCultureShockForMe. “I can’t wait to experience real Thai culture.”

-Ted Gault, former hostel intern

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Fuerza Bruta: Look Up!

The hostel was lucky enough to acquire 10 free tickets to the 10pm show of Fuerza Bruta, the Argentine production that just arrived for a 12-week run at the Auditorium Theater.

All the reviews that I had read of the production described it has "hard to describe," so I had no idea what to expect going into it. We arrived at the theater at about 9:55pm and were greeted wtih a club-like scene in the lobby of the theater. Techno and pop music pumped while the crowd enjoyed drinks and waited to be ushered into the auditorium. At around 10:15pm we got the go-ahead, and we moved into the theater - but not into seats! We were guided up to the stage and instructed to stand inside of a large, stage-wide, ceiling-high net. The fog machine set an almost eerie-scene and loud music erupted...and the experience began! I don't want to spoil the surprises, but you can expect the following things:

-The show is a mix of performance art and dance. There's no dialouge, but a lot of movement and music.
-You'll stand the duration of the 65-minute show.
-You'll be encouraged to particpate and interact with the performers, but not forced.
-You'll get at least a little wet (and a lot wet, if you so choose).
-It's a loud, high-energy, dance party - as close as any theater production can get to a rave/
-It'll go by VERY fast! It's non-stop the entire 65-minutes.

Tickets can be purchased at the Auditorium Theater (only a block away from HI-Chicago!) or on for between $50-$80, depending on the show time. The show will run regularly until August.

Check out more information here!

-Jessica Smith

Friday, May 28, 2010

The Down-Low on Tuk-Tuks

Quick! What sputters and swerves down the streets of Thailand, spilling smoke and scaring countless tourists? I am of course talking about the automated rickshaw of Thailand, affectionately named the “tuk-tuk” by foreigners for the loud gasping breaths it makes as it barrels to every destination in Bangkok and beyond. It is impossible to travel in Thailand without encountering the crazy machines, so here are some tips for dealing with tuk-tuks and their notoriously colorful drivers.

1) Only use tuk-tuks for short distances. For longer distances, go with taxis or songthaews (modified trucks), which are much more cost effective. However, if you want to get somewhere within a few miles as fast as possible, jump on a tuk-tuk and enjoy the ride as it breezes through traffic like an unleashed roller coaster.

2) ALWAYS agree on a price first. It is very common for tuk-tuk drivers to ask for exorbitant prices after dropping you off, especially in Bangkok. It is also possible that while in transit, they will try to get you to pay them more by using excuses such as high gas prices or mention of a “tuk-tuk mafia”. Seriously, those were the exact words one tuk-tuk driver used! No matter what, ignore these requests and stick with the agreed upon price. Be strong!

3) Beware tuk-tuk drivers who try to steer you toward other destinations. It is highly likely that they will lead you to high pressure sales situations so that they can collect a commission.

4) Share tuk-tuks as often as possible. Some tuk-tuk drivers will try to double or triple the rate, but remember that you have the buying power. You should be paying 50-75% less per person.

5) Try a tuk-tuk ride at least once! It is one of the coolest vehicles ever invented and part of the Thailand experience.

Don’t be scared by any of this advice. Tuk-tuks are safe and fun, and tuk-tuk drivers are real characters with lots of stories. Don’t miss out!

-Ted Gault, former hostel intern

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Peace Love and Hostelling Bicycle Bash

Join Peace, Love & Hostelling on Bobby's Bike Hike City Lights at Night Tour! Created for all ages and fitness levels, it is the perfect way to unwind after work while supporting the hostel's cultural awareness building educational programs.

Like a party on wheels, we'll cruise through downtown to see Millennium Park, Museum Campus, and Buckingham Fountain with its world-renowned light show. After the tour, we'll head over to a local watering hole to grab a drink or two (included in tour price) and enjoy the Wednesday night fireworks show at 9:30. If needed, we'll have places to change out of your work clothes and store things at the bike shop.

The cost of $30 includes bicycle, helmet, tour guide, 2 beers at Navy Pier's Beer Garden, a donation to the hostel's educational programs, and a guaranteed great time!

You must register in advance!

Monday, May 24, 2010

Volunteer Spotlight

Adrienne Nothnagel, Chicago Cultural Ambassador!

What do you do at the hostel? What’s your motivation for doing it?I get to lead awesome travelers of all ages, races, and nationalities all over the city. Sometimes I'll show them something super touristy, and other times I will take them to something that is more of a city-local type of deal.

What motivates me is that I have been a traveler for a few years now, and I like to see and know the "real" culture of a place when I visit it. Thus, I try to do the same for the travelers. The touristy stuff is always spectacular and predictable (and usually crowded), but the off-the-path type of activities really show what "US citizens" are like on a day to day basis. I also am selfishly motivated because I'm relatively new to the city, and I like to learn more about experiences in the city and the history behind neighborhoods.

What has been your most interesting encounter with a traveler so far?
Hmm... There was a blues night when we had almost every continent represented. I remember there being one from Spain, Argentina, Japan, South Africa, Mexico, Denmark, Germany, Ukraine, etc... What was so awesome about it was that despite being from such different places, we all were in that same room, sharing beers and exchanging stories. I am always interested to know their reasons for travel, and it's awesome to compare how our societies and social systems work. I've met people here on business and I've met people here deciding to travel the world and doing it solo. Figuring out the root of the latter is always intriguing.

If you had no limits on money, what would be your dream for the hostel?
I would give all travelers a free wine, pizza, and chocolate tour of the city. What better way to know a city than through it's food? The tour would take the travelers to different neighborhoods to get a feel of what it is really like to live in Chicago, and they would be able to experience the Chicago deep dish pizza!

Friday, May 21, 2010

Traveler Spotlight

Back in April intern Erika sat down with Jordan from Canada!

What is your name?

HI: Where are you from?
From Saskatoon in Saskatchewan Canada. It's north of Minnesota.

HI: When did you get to Chicago?
On Sunday.

HI: What brings you to Chicago?
Just travel. I’m with my dad and he's retired, so we're traveling around. We're stateside for a month and are spending a week here in Chicago.

HI: Where else in the United States are you going?
D.C., Raleigh North Carolina, New York, and Boston.

HI: Sounds great! Where are you at in your trip? Is this the first city?
Yup. Just our 3rd day.

HI: Are you enjoying it so far?
Yup. I have been here before. I'm a city planner, so Chicago is very interesting to me. Saskatoon is not like this. I love the park right downtown and the planning around that. Who doesn’t love a great park, right? But dad hasn’t been here since he was really young. We've been to the planetarium, the John Hancock building, and Gino’s East for Pizza.

HI: Of course. So good!
Yes. We walked by the big McDonald’s. Is there something special about it? We didn’t know.

HI: Yeah it’s the Rock and Roll McDonald’s.
Yeah, that’s what we thought. But we didn’t know what was so special about it. Other than it is giant and pretty, we didn’t know why it was such a big deal so we didn’t go in. We also saw Cloud Gate.

HI: The cloud gate?
Yeah, the giant bean.

HI: Oh right!
Yeah I think cloud gate is the technical name for it.

HI: Oh, I never knew that! Cool!
Yeah that was really cool. There is lots of land and parks. With my profession as well it is very interesting.

HI: Yeah I’m sure! So what else would you like to see?
Tomorrow we are planning on going on one of the architectural tours.

HI: With the hostel?
No, the Chicago Architecture Foundation.

HI: Oh okay, that sounds good!
Then Thursday the Museum of Science and Industry. Friday I have a friend in town. So we will hang out with them, we don’t really have plans other than that. Then on Saturday we leave.

HI: Well I hope you have a great stay! Enjoy your long vacation!
Yes thank you! See you later.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Neighborhood Spotlight: Wrigleyville

Historic Wrigley Field is home of the famous Chicago Cubs. One of the oldest fields in baseball, Wrigley is known throughout the United States for its ivy-covered red brick back wall and historic red, white and blue uniforms. The fact that the Cubs haven’t won the World Series since 1908 doesn’t stop fans from all over the world from flooding its historic gates. The area is also known for its wild pre-game and post-game nightlife. Filled with restaurants, sports bars, and pubs, it’s a fun place for a rowdy night out (even if it’s not baseball season!)

 KNOWN FOR: Wrigley Field, home of the Chicago Cubs, good sports bars, and a young party crowd.

 DON’T MISS: A Cubs game! Season runs from April-October; Improv Olympic (3541 N Clark St), a world-famous comedy club showcasing Chicago’s signature improvisational comedy; Goose Island Brew Pub (3535 N Clark St) for Chicago-brewed beer and sports games on big TVs; Smart Bar (3730 N Clark Street) for late-night house music DJs; The Wild Hare (3530 N Clark St) for a diverse crowd and reggae, dancehall, R&B, and more; The Gingerman Tavern (3740 N Clark St) for a more laid-back neighborhood feel.

Take the Red Line train (towards Howard) and get off at Addison.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Hosteller Spotlight

Hajime Nishi, Globe-trotting Ecomarathoner

What's your name and where are you from?
My name is Hajime Nishi and I'm from Tokyo, Japan.

What are you doing in Chicago?
I'm in the United States running marathons. I ran one in Colorado last week, and I am doing two in Illinois week. The Rockford Marathon and the The Des Plaines River Canoe and Kayak Marathon.

Oh wow! So you run a lot of marathons?Yes, I have run 568 marathons in 72 different countries.
How did you get so into running marathons?In 1990 I started to experience a lot of personal and spiritual growth thanks to a series of workshops at the Esalen Institute in Big Sur, California, and I began to run many marathons. By 1997 I was the first person who ran seven marathons on each of seven continents in seven months. I'm in the Guinness Book of World Records!

You're famous! What do you in Tokyo when you're not busy traveling the world running marathons?
Actually, I am the founder of an organization called Ecomarathon International. It's based on the philosophy of the ecomarathon. The idea is to lower the bar of the marathon - to make it more inclusive to society - and to increase the winnings of the environment. Before, I thought, "Winner takes all. It's very important to win." And now, I realize this is wrong. Everyone has value, not just the winner. Marathons should respect it's participants, the environment and local culture, and that is what I am trying to do.

When did you think of this idea?
Well, 1990 was a big turning point in my life. I realized that I did not want to run for competitive reasons, but to feel a connection with the environment. I was attending a personal growth workshop in California. I was also running in the Navajo Tribal Park Marathon, which is a very scenic and sacred race. I realized what a truly sacred place it was, and as I was running, I started to pick up trash as I went along. I wasn't racing to make a certain time and I realized I wanted to give back to the environment as I was running. That's where it started. Before competitive marathons spread like a disease, I want to spread the idea of ecomarathons so that we can live in peace and harmony with each other and the environment.

Have you organized an ecomarathon?
The first official Ecomarathon will be held on April 3, 2011 in Inba Nihon Idai & Lake Inba near the Tokyo International Airport.

What are the rules of an ecomarathon?
If you drop any garbage and don't pick it up - even if it's by accident - you are automatically disqualified. You are also disqualified if you arrive in a vehicle, unless it's electric. Otherwise you must come by foot, on bicycle, or by public transportation. You can only use reusable water containers, and the food served will be from the ground of local farmers. People will race with bags so they can pick up trash along the way. The race is not timed, and there will be three different start times so that the walkers can start early. People can take up to 9 hours to complete the race!

So there will be no winners?
No, we don't need winners. We need an eco-hero!

Eco-hero? Sounds like a superhero!
Yes! People will be encouraged to dress up in costumes too. And instead of getting a number, they will put a nickname on their shirt.

This is definitely a unique concept!
How will you explain this to people who are doubtful?A marathon, and any sporting event, should be a reason to unite humanity. Sports are a great tool to promote peace, human rights, and the environment. A marathon can be very fulfilling to the runner if they are connected with the environment and humanity while they participate. I hope this concept will expand to many people and places.

Back to you - where are some of the unique places you've run marathons?
Dubai and Pakistan. The whole country knew about me when I came to Pakistan to run the marathon. They thought, who is this crazy Japanese guy running a marathon in Pakistan?!

Where was your favorite marathon?
I give ratings to each marathon based on the level of environmentally friendliness. The best one I ran, which was AAA rated, was in 1995 in Morea, Tahiti. In 2002, the Himalayan 100 Mile Stage Race was a AAA-. I picked up 25 kg of garbage during the 3 days. This marathon was very scenic and beautiful, and was also good for the local community. It brought a lot of cultural exchange and business.

What marathon has the worst rating?
Well, it's difficult to say. But some of the most famous marathons, in terms of the environmental effect, are very bad. The organizers care about the size and don't care about the bad effects on the environment. So where can people find out more information about you and your mission?They can go to And they can come to Japan in April 2011 to run in the very first Ecomarathon!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Taste & Travel with HI-Chicago

Taste and Travel is a monthly event that brings together HI-Chicago, REI., and Whole Foods for an evening dedicated to culture and travel. The event begins at REI with a slide show and firsthand travel accounts from Hostelling International Chicago. The discussion continues at Whole Foods Market as participants taste cuisine prepared by a local Chicago chef. You'll wash down the delicious food with complimentary wine from Whole Foods.

Anyone is welcome to the REI presentation portion 6:30 - 7:15pm But you must call Whole Foods to register for the dinner portion of the evening 7:30 - 9:pm. To register call Whole Foods Lincoln Park customer service at 312-587-0648. Cost: $15 per person per class. Each attendee will receive a $5 Whole Foods gift card.

Next two Taste & Travel events: TONIGHT! Wednesday, May 12th - Egypt, and Wednesday, June 9th - Argentina and Uruguay
Beginning locations: REI Lincoln Park, 1466 N Halsted Street, 312-951-6020
Ending locations: Whole Foods Lincoln Park, 1550 N. Kingsbury, 312-587-0648.

Look for more Taste & Travel events coming soon!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Chicago in the Summer top 10 list (part 3)

Kayak the Chicago River-The Chicago river, which is probably best known for being dyed green every Saint Patrick’s Day, is a great way to see the city while getting a nice work-out. Kayak tours on the river will take you through the heart of downtown in what has become known as Skyscraper Canyon. On both sides of the river you will be surrounded by amazing architecture which provides for great picture taking opportunities and a unique way to see Chicago. Alternatively, if for some reason you are unable to do the kayak tour, you can jump on a Water taxi and for just $2 take the trip from Sears Tower to Michigan Avenue. For more information visit the website links below:
Visit a Comedy Club-If you have heard of Chris Farley, Mike Myers, Dan Akroyd, Steve Carell, or Stephen Colbert, then you surely realize that Chicagoans are a funny bunch. Many of the most prominence comedic personalities have had their start in Chicago, which is why a visit to a Chicago comedy club is a must. You will find the “Second City” comedy troupe theater in Chicago’s Old Town Neighborhood as one of the premier destinations for funny people all across the nation. “Second City” which has been around for nearly 50 years draws large groups of visitors and is known for producing many cast members of “Saturday Night Live.” Near North and Wells you will also find Zanies, a small comedy club that features both well-known and up and coming comics. I love going to Zanies because such an intimate atmosphere allows you to chat with the performers after the show. The seating is on a first come, first serve basis, so make sure to arrive early. Tickets to Zanies are $22 plus a purchase of two item minimum is required, expect to spend about $35-$40 in total. Also note that this venue is open for those over 21. Best way to get to either Zanies or Second City, is from the Sedgwick stop on the Brown line, or Clark and Division stop on the Red Line (about half a mile walk away). For more information visit:
Free Concert in Millennium Park- While talking to numerous visitors to Chicago, I found one commonality, everyone seems to love Millennium Park. As the name denotes, the park was built to celebrate the arrival of the second millennium, and has quickly turned into one of the biggest tourist attractions in Chicago. Throughout the summer, the park is a great place to take a stroll, admire the modern art, and also to listen to music at the Pritzker Pavilion. While sitting on the lawn, grab some food and a blanket and picnic out while listening to a free concert, which takes place weekly. Millennium Park offers an ideal opportunity for visitors to relax and enjoy themselves away from the hustle and bustle of the “Loop”. For a list of events in Millennium Park visit

Michigan Avenue Shopping-When foreigners come to the United States, often shopping is at the top of the to-do list. Michigan Avenue provides a great opportunity to do just that. With both high-end and mid-level stores, everyone is sure to find a suitable shopping experience. Just because, the stores are located in the middle of the city, does not mean you cannot find a bargain. If shopping is not of much interest to you, taking the stroll from the Tribune Tower to the John Hancock building will provide an excellent opportunity for people watching and enjoying local street performances. If you feel energetic continue your walk up to the Gold Coast and explore some local boutiques and fine restaurants. Grab a cup of coffee or an ice cream at the intersection of Rush and State and watch all the fancy cars go by.

Although Chicago has many more things to do and see, I wanted to provide you a list of my favorites which are by no means all-encompassing. Some of you might also be interested in events such as Taste of Chicago and the Air and Water Show, or a visit to Navy Pier, all of which I have left out. Although these events can be unique, more often than not they are extremely crowded and attended by suburbanites and other visitors to the city, rather than Chicagoans. Whatever activities you decide to undertake, I truly hope you enjoy your stay in Chicago.
-Peter Razumovskiy, volunteer

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Going Medieval in China

At some point or another, everyone dreams of being a billionaire. Unlimited travel in private jets, hotels and retreats that make the average person’s house look like a pile of saw dust, tiny portions of food that cost more than a month’s rent. These are the things we dream of for a short while before ultimately deciding that the rich person’s life is completely ludicrous.

I would say that billionaires are eccentric by definition, and it is always fascinating to see how they ultimately spend their money. Bill Gates, Microsoft meganaire, eventually created a charitable foundation catering to the needs of millions. Liu Congguang, on the other hand, decided that there weren’t enough castles in China and that it was his duty to play feudal lord of the 21st century.

As a huge fan of medieval times, I was excited to read about Chinese billionaire Liu Congguang’s mission to “build more castles in China than there are in Europe”, as well as the largest castle in the world. Liu founded a ‘food’ company that specializes in premium twinkie-like products, if there are such things, and quickly made billions off the ho-ho chewing middle class.

My initial excitement waned slightly when I read that Liu was adorning his castles with a mishmash of conflicting statues including:

  • Knights: Perfectly up to code.
  • Elephants: Not typical, but anything the size of two to three cars stacked on top of each other is reasonably castle-esque.
  • “Grecian ladies with harps”: Reasonable.
  • Pirates and Clamshells: Charlemagne would be aghast.
  • “Turtle soldiers”: What?

To round them his crazy vision out, Liu added a statue of Pinocchio, just because he could. Apparently Liu’s ideas of castles are those of the Disney and fantasy variety. Which is a shame since castles are … real. If Liu somehow achieves his dream of a castle-filled China, then China’s history will become more fantasy than reality. Then maybe someday, I will be able to take my kids to the magical fairy land of China.

-Ted Gault, former hostel intern

Friday, May 7, 2010

Neighborhood Spotlight: Lincoln Park

Lincoln Park is Chicago’s beautiful and historic lakefront neighborhood, with something for everyone. In the winter, you can spend your time indoors at the Peggy Notebart Nature Museum (check out the butterfly room!) or the Chicago History Museum. Lincoln Park becomes a paradise of outdoor fun in the summer, with tons of activity in Lincoln Park, the gigantic park for which the neighborhood was named, and at North Avenue Beach, the city’s premiere beach. The neighborhood is home to DePaul University and exudes a college vibe, evident in the many options for nightlife along Lincoln Avenue. Whether you want to check out local nightlife, explore museums, get active outdoors, or just walk a quiet street admiring the architecture of beautiful homes, you’ll surely enjoy Lincoln Park.

KNOWN FOR: Collegiate atmosphere; beautiful parks; upscale retailers; sports bars; affluent residents

CAN’T MISS: Lincoln Park Zoo (2001 N Clark St) which is free; Kingston Mines (2548 North Halsted St), one of the biggest & best blues clubs in the city; Steppenwolf Theater (1650 N Halsted St), Chicago’s world-class theater company; Chicago’s Dog House (816 W Fullerton) for a Chicago hot dog.

GET THERE: Take the train: Red Line (towards Howard) to Fullerton or Brown Line to Armitage.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Traveler Chat

HI: So where are you guys from?

HI: Oh okay! Great!
Yeah we got here yesterday and we are staying until Thursday. We got here by bus through the night.

HI: Ugh, sounds like you guys are tired then.
Yes! Today we went through the Loop and saw the downtown buildings.

HI: So what are you guys doing here in Chicago?
We started in Canada, we are students studying there. So we had holiday and we wanted to visit the United States and then more of Canada.

HI: Oh okay! That is great!
Yeah we are in Chicago for 3 days. Then Seattle for 2 days. And then the Vancouver Islands.

HI: Oh beautiful!
Yes. And that is it.

HI: How long are you studying in Canada?
1 year

HI: What are you studying?
We are taking MBA courses. In France we are in a business course.

HI: Oh okay. Cool! So did you guys know each other before you started studying in Canada?
Actually we have a friend in common. The three of us room together. So we met over Facebook. (pointing to each other)

HI: (laughing) That is great!
(laughing) Yeah. But we both k now the third person better.

HI: Did she travel with you guys to the United States?
Yes. She is here, she is resting. She was very tired.

HI: Oh Okay. So what are you planning on seeing in Chicago?
We saw the Loop today. We want to see the Art Institute, Sears Tower, the Magnificent Mile.

HI: Good choice
Yes. And Bucktown, and if time Jackson Park as well. We heard it was very beautiful. And also Navy Pier, Lincoln Park. And that’s it. In 2 days that’s all we can do. Oh and the Museum of Contemporary Art too.

HI: Wow! Yeah in two days you will be very busy! You will enjoy it though! Those are all really great things to see! When did you start your program in Canada?
We started August 9 and we are here until August. (referencing one girl and the other girl who was sleeping) She is leaving soon. (pointing to the other girl)

HI: So you are leaving early?
Yeah. May 10. I studied in Quebec so we are done earlier.

HI: Are you sad to be leaving?
Yes of course. But I am happy to see my family and friends too.

HI: Yeah, it is always good and bad. Well good luck! I hope you guys enjoy the rest of your stay in Chicago!
Yes thank you! Bye.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Chicago in the Summer top 10 list (part 2)

This week I would like to introduce you to four more "to-do" things in Chicago during the summer. Once again, they are listed in no particular order.

Visit the Art Institute-Since the World Exposition, nearly a century ago, the Art Institute has been compiling precious works of art from all over the world. The works at the Art Institute are primarily from the impressionist and modern era. The list of famous paintings at Art Institute of Chicago is endless and you are sure to find a piece of art by Renoir, Monet, Picasso, Cezanne, Degas, Gaugain, and Van Gogh amongst many others. Entrance is free on Thursdays between 5pm and 8pm, otherwise there is a $12 entrance fee for students. From the Art Institute take a stroll south to Millennium Park, or go north for shopping on Michigan Avenue also known as the Magnificent Mile.

Attend a Street Festival – An activity that almost any Chicagoan will tell you is a must during the summer is attendance of one of the numerous Chicago street festivals. Nearly every weekend a different neighborhood of Chicago sets up a street festival drawing crowds of young Chicago residents. To enter the festival organizers often ask for a donation of about $10. The festivals are great way to mingle with the locals while enjoying the nice weather, beer and street food. Many festivals also feature live music which attracts large crowds. A festival worth looking into is the Old Town Street-fest on Wells, (between North and Division), this festival features local art-work, live music, and is one of the most popular festivals in the city. For more information about various street festivals which occur almost every weekend, visit

Play Volleyball at North Avenue Beach – Us Chicagoans have long admired our beautiful lakefront. During the summers the beach is gathering place for young people looking to party, exercise, and people watch. One activity that is a must when visiting Chicago is playing volleyball at North Avenue Beach. Any day of the week, you are sure to find tons of people at the numerous volleyball courts set up on the beach. Although some courts are reserved for league play, don’t be shy about asking strangers to join in a casual game. Chicagoans are a warm bunch, and we are always happy to meet new people, especially those from out of town. After a long day of beach volleyball and sunbathing, you must visit “Castaways”, a bar/restaurant in a shape of a boat, yards away from the lake. At “Castaways” you will always find a crowd of young people, enjoying a few beers and live music. To get to the beach I recommend a 15 minute stroll from the Clark and Division Red Line stop. Walk East on Division until you are at the lake and follow the bike/jogging path straight to the beach at North Avenue, about half a mile north of Division Street. Bring your camera as the backdrop of the city skyline presents a great opportunity for picture taking. In addition, North Avenue Beach, is only a short walk away from Chicago's Lincoln Park Zoo, one of the oldest "free" zoos in the country. Lincoln Park Zoo is perfect for a leisurely stroll through the park and is a great opportunity to admire some of nature's amazing creatures.

Go to a Roof-Top Party-What I love about the summer nightlife in Chicago is the abundance of outdoor venues, and when the outdoor venue is on a roof many stories above the city, it has a potential to turn into a favorite of mine. Chicago is the home of the original skyscraper, so it is no wonder that such marvelous architecture is prevalent throughout the city. To get a great view of the city I recommend visiting one of the many roof-top patio lounges/bars in Chicago. The Wit Hotel, Vertigo, and C-View provide patrons with a great atmosphere, music, and of course a wonderful view of Chicago at night. Please note that due to city ordinances open air venues usually close no later than 12am, so make sure to visit these places early in the evening. For those of you considering a trip to the top of the Sears Tower or Willis Tower as it has recently become known, I would encourage you to visit the Signature Room at the top of the John Hancock Building instead. The Signature Room, at the top of the 4th tallest building in Chicago is a restaurant with an amazing panoramic view of the city. Although the price of a drink at the Signature Room might be relatively pricey, it will surely be less than the price of a ticket to the Sears Tower observation deck.

Next Tuesday, look for the conclusion to this brief series (items 7-10). Enjoy your stay in Chicago!

-Peter Razumovskiy, volunteer

Monday, May 3, 2010


As the city heats up and the sun shines daily now, we are reminded that summer is finally on its way. The city lights up and we notice that Chicago really does have inhabitants. I love watching winter fade and warmer weather take its place. However, this year I welcome in the new season with mixed feelings. It is yet another reminder that my time at Hostelling International Chicago is ending.

Tomorrow I will spend my last day as an intern here in Chicago. Looking on to graduation that is rapidly approaching, excitement fills me. I am about to embark on a new adventure that has yet to take form. Regardless, it is an exciting point. At the same time, I am forced to look back on what I have learned and done this semester. Born and raised in a small town in Iowa, Chicago is definitely different than my usual atmosphere.

Starting at the end of January, small tasks such as managing public transportation seemed nearly impossible. “Which side of the tracks do I need to be on?” “How do I know I’m on the right bus? Where do I get off?” Even crossing the street was an educational experience! In my small town, the flashing orange hand means the light is changing, so stop. For Chicago that hand means, walk faster! After standing at a few corners way too long, a couple mistakes on the CTA, and pouring over maps, I finally transitioned. It quickly became second nature.

Aside from city life, Hostelling International Chicago also provided constant learning opportunities. Like many of you who stay with us each week, I knew very little about Chicago. For the first several weeks as I sat at the information desk, it felt like a crash and burn course on the city. So many random questions were thrown my way, and I hadn’t the slightest clue on how to answer them. Google was soon my favorite form of modern technology! HI travelers were always gracious as I explained that I just moved here myself and had no idea! I grew to love sitting down with a traveler and learning vast amounts about Chicago.

In addition to sitting at the information desk, I had the opportunity to interact with travelers daily. Attending hostel outings throughout Chicago, leading a walking tour every week, conducting focus groups, and eating lunch with groups of students all offered me the opportunity to learn so much. You as travelers were constantly teaching me new things about your own cultures and lives. One of my favorite parts of the internship was conducting interviews. So many of you were gracious enough to put up with my numerous questions and curiosities. It never ceased to amaze me the adventures you were on and the things you have seen! Through these interviews you also opened my eyes to Chicago. Without you I would have missed many of its treasures and quirks!

Interacting with so many different travelers throughout the semester also provided me with great amounts of laughter. There was always a funny story to be heard or hysterical situations to observe. If there was ever a slow day, I often found comic relief simply walking through the lobby. Whether it was making crepes with travelers in the kitchen, watching someone accidentally kick their flip flop in the fridge, or watching travelers dance to blues music, each has enriched my experience beyond words.

Over the past few months I have absolutely loved getting to know the heartbeat of Hostelling International Chicago. From the moment I interviewed for the internship, I knew I would love spending time here. A unique culture prevails within the beautiful downtown building. Staff members, volunteers, and travelers all create a great sense of community. So, thank you! Every one of you I have met these past months has contributed so much to my experience in Chicago. It will always be one of my favorite cities!

Best wishes on your own new adventures!
-Erika Ter Louw, HI intern