(Click on a picture at the bottom to pull the full sized gallery up!)
In my essay on my trip to New Zealand I spoke about a paradigm shift in how I thought of travel after adventuring with Fabian there, and how it made me feel more spontaneous even in my everyday life. Well, a similar thing happened to me when he came to visit Traverse City after our trip to Costa Rica. It was the end of January, full on winter, which is fierce here, and I was trying to think of what we could do. After all, Traverse City is a summertime destination. The population increases from about 20,000 in winter to 200,000 in summer. I live only 25 minutes from a fantastic national park, the Sleeping Bear Dunes. So, I said to Fabian, “Gosh, it’s too bad it’s not summer…we live by a great park on the lakeshore.” Then he asked, “Are you not allowed to go there in the winter?” Doh. So we dressed up in long underwear and coats (we wear the same size in everything) and headed out. We even borrowed snowshoes from a friend. Well, I will never forget this day and how it made me feel differently about where I live. Turns out we didn’t even need snowshoes because the sand and snow blow over each other, layer upon layer, making the surface hard. Another thing we did was to drive out to the lake where my family had a cottage when I was growing up. This lake freezes over with a thick sheet of ice in the winter because it is so shallow. As we walked out onto the ice Fabian mentions how much he’d had always wanted to ride a snowmobile. I told him we had six when we had the cottage. Then, lo and behold, a neighbor and her partner came cruising by on their snowmobiles. I flagged them down, engaged in some friendly conversation, and then asked if there has any chance they’d let Fabian ride on of their machines. They said sure, and were probably a bit scared when Fabian took off at full speed across the lake. Later, Fabian came back in early September, this time bringing two friends with him. We drove to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan where we stayed at the cottage (“hut” to them) of the same friends that gave us the snowshoes before. Veit was fascinated by the country music on the radio. Hiking through the Pictured Rocks on the Lake Superior seashore, I was seeing it through their eyes. They were amazed at how the lake, in the middle of a continent, looked so much like an ocean. And I was having a revelation: Wow, this really is as beautiful as a place like New Zealand. My own home. Not all of what they noticed was entirely positive. Driving up the street I live on, which I think looks quite nice (see the last picture below) for the first time with them, I remarked something like “Isn’t the craftsman style of each house and the bright colors nice?” Total silence. So I asked Fabian what was wrong, and got a very unexpected response. “All of the houses have American flags out front.” “Hmm, what’s wrong with that? ” “Well, the last time all the homes in Germany had German flags out front…it didn’t turn out so well.” Wow. We have had to deal with our legacy of slavery in the US, and it has affected our entire history and struggles. What must it feel like to come from some place where the Nazis ruled so recently and the patriotic shame that one might feel about that?
Later, another German friend, his American wife, and a mutual French friend came to visit. I thought I’d take them to a minor league baseball game. The local team has a gorgeous stadium here. Jean Baptiste (French) and Dirk (German) were utterly amazed that we all stood up to sing the National Anthem before the game (Laura, Dirk’s wife, who understood both sides, smiled discreetly – she knew they were appalled). For me, it got even more interesting when an American serviceman appeared on the huge screen in the bleachers to thank everyone for our support of American troops while they fought for our freedom in Iraq. They were speechless at this. Oh, I almost forgot. They were not speechless when they each received a big red Christmas stocking (it was August) with decks of cards inside that had Bible verses written on them (both Dirk and JB are atheists). JB said to Dirk “Hey, what am I suppose to do with only one sock? Dirk, give me your’s and then I’ll have a pair.” Also, we had arrived early at the game and volunteers were going through the stands looking for participants for the quirky games they played between innings. We were approached to see if any of us would like to play the game “Win the Toyota truck by hitting the baseball through the net over it.” They said “No” But I said “Oh, yes they will!!!!” and I utterly insisted and told the woman that they could come get Dirk when the time came. Dirk is very athletic but had never even seen a baseball game before and wasn’t keen on looking like a fool in front of 15,000 people. But I explained all the details of how to hold the bat, etc…, and off he went between the fourth and fifth innings. He threw the first ball up, swung, and the bat breezed right by the ball as it fell to the ground. The bat barely touched the ball the second time. But on the third try, Dirk connected. The crowd gasped…it was headed right for the net!!!…and just missed.
Another friend of mine, Tobias, also from Germany, came for a visit near Christmas time. He had heard that Americans decorate their homes wildly at this time of year with all kinds of lights and Santas and Christmas trees and giant snowmen (pagans!), but he was unprepared for what he saw. Indeed, one house nearby surely creates 50% of all global warming (my Mother loves this), but I told him that America was a country that has energy without end. He said a friend of his had seen a house in the US once that had two giant Santas, one that was higher than the house.
Not everyone has the resources I do to travel so much. So, I thought I would take this opportunity to show pictures from my own home and how beautiful it is once I take off my “take it for granted” glasses. You are all invited for a visit!!! I have a really comfy guest room.
Imagine a foreigner coming to visit you at your home. What might they see that you have never even noticed? Comments greatly encouraged!