Friday, August 07, 2009

A visit from Antwerpen

We Globetrekkers have stayed close to home this summer, to supervise a home addition that is nearly complete. While the plaster dust flies, we've set up temporary domicile just up the street at the home of friends T & K. They spend the summer in Canada, and were as happy to have house-sitters as we were to borrow their house! What a stroke of luck - we are thankful indeed.

For most of the summer, JieJie and MeiMei have been SO amazingly go-with-the-flow about all the displacement. We are amazed at how different they are at age 7 and 6, how much more able to understand the need for short-term sacrifice for the sake of long-term gain (in their case, their own bedrooms).

And it isn't as though we've done nothing this summer, either. In fact, our friends S & I from Antwerp brought daughters H & E with them for a visit in July, their first trip ever to the US. What a great time we all had! And as we thought, it was just as much fun to see your own backyard through someone else's eyes as it is to visit someone else's backyard!

They marveled at the amount of space our kids have to run and play, and the way one backyard leads to another in our neighborhood, melding into one giant Kiddie Game Preserve. They saw hummingbirds and lightning bugs for the first time. Each night as the lightning bugs rose from the lawn, we marveled at their beauty. S actually lost concentration on our conversation one night, apologizing "I'm sorry, I'm just completely gobsmacked at these fireflies." And his wife said "they look like sparks going the opposite direction."

They visited Shenandoah National Park and actually saw a bear (which we've never even seen!) as well as their first chipmunk and many beautiful birds (their first cardinal too). We toured Luray Caverns together and the kids went crazy for the awesome audio tour tailored just to their age group. In fact, the kids' tour was so much fun, the adults started using that track instead of the one for grownups!

And of course, one majorly fun part of any trip is trying new foods. Our Belgian friends tried many new dishes, including meatloaf, crab cakes, corn fritters, cheesecake, pork barbeque sandwiches, a couple of different cuts of steak, and (by request) a trip to an ice cream parlor, Coldstone Creamery in this case. They thought it was too sweet--I have to agree.

If you read my posts from Antwerp in 2007, you will remember that I was overwhelmed by the yogurt selection in the supermarkets there - you could get all different sizes, blends, flavors...yogurt to eat, drink, mix with other stuff...a whole aisle in the supermarket--BOTH SIDES. The flip side was that when my friend "I" wanted yogurt for her kids, we walked past the selection "blink and you miss it" style...she was looking for more choices and I said "this is pretty much it"--though she recognized Danone (Dannon) from home. Her daughters thought our yogurt was too sweet, our cereal was too sweet ("lightly sweetened? it's like cookies!") and I started to notice all over again our American obsession with sweet tastes. Her daughter H discovered Kix, though, and had several bowls a day of Kix cereal - we'll have to send her a box now that they're back home.

4th of July arrived and we did the farmer's market, which was doing its best Norman Rockwell impression that morning. Steve Parks was playing with a pickup ensemble of Old Time musicians from the area. Mennonite farmers and their bonneted wives and daughters were selling gorgeous produce and homemade goodies. Back at home, we presented H & E with red white and blue-beribboned hair barrettes (the kind we used to wear in the 80's with the braided ribbon...if you are a Gen-X'er, you know what I'm talking about!). S was a bit uncomfortable with the patriotic display but permitted his daughters to get into the spirit. When in Rome...

Sad to say, our 4th of July parade was beyond lame this year - in fact S missed it completely just by leaving the house 10 minutes later than the girls and I did! But the fireworks that night made up for it - nice job there, and the jet-lagged little girls sat with us on the Ott Street wall overlooking downtown, a nice view of the festivities.

We felt honored that they entrusted their jet-lagged selves to us, and in fact it worked out so well, they moved out of their nice room at The Village Inn and into our guest rooms! We look forward to our next trip to Antwerp to see them again, and talked several times about our hopes that the girls grow up to continue our friendship on into the future, as we have enjoyed with our Dutch friends M, R, S & V.

By the way, can you believe that our friends came from Belgium, the land of amazing beer, and went right for the Corona, Sol, and Modelo cases? Apparently Mexican beers are hard to get over there!

Next post will take us to the land of my childhood memories..."Up North" Minnesota.


You can search FTJ for past posts, e.g. China info...