We recently played host to a lovely family of four from Esberg, Denmark. Tim knew Anne-Marie Grabe from his mission 20 (!) years ago. She has since married John and had two teenage children, Christoffer and Benjamin. They stayed with us for about 5 days, took a sojourn to the mecca of Salt Lake City for one week, then returned for another week of fun. Here are some of my observations.
- America is ridiculous in its sizes of everything. One of my favorite moments was when we took them to Costco and they had to take pictures of the couch they were selling - with cup holders! They couldn’t get over the cup holders. And the size of the watermelon we purchased filled them with confusion and dismay. It got to be a running joke about the size of everything - houses, cars, plates of food. “Crazy Americans!”
- If in Europe you have to walk everywhere, you soon realize that in America, particularly if you are in the Western states, you have to drive everywhere. It took some getting used to. When they were planning their trip, they asked whether traffic would be a problem on the highway between Portland and Salt Lake. As anyone who has taken that trip knows, traffic is not the problem on that drive (just the mind-numbing boredom of central Idaho). We took them to the beach, Astoria, waterfalls in the Columbia Gorge, and Mt. St. Helens. Denmark is a very flat country, so they enjoyed the varied topography and the ability to get above things and look down.
- It is interesting to see what they wanted to eat that they couldn’t easily get in Denmark. Their main requests were chocolate chip cookies, anything Mexican (especially enchiladas), root beer, and Fruit Loops. They had never seen refried beans. They went home with two big bags of goldfish, 12 boxes of macaroni and cheese, and six cans of green enchilada sauce. As they were packing, they found an old bag of Danish candy that they left behind. It was the yummiest candy I have ever eaten. And I realized that if visitors stay that long, I run out of meals I make for company. We had spaghetti pie twice (by request).
- When you host someone in your home who speaks a language you do not, you can’t help but always have the impression that they are talking about you, perhaps negatively. All of them spoke marvelous English, but when they spoke to each other they often switched back to Danish. For the first few days my brain kept switching to Spanish mode - like my mind was desperately trying to understand what was being spoken and was switching to the default mode of the only foreign language I sort of speak. By the end I could pick up a lot by context, and would often just pretend I understood what was going on. Tim still speaks Danish well, so he just loved loved loved having them here.
- Anywhere you go you are infinitely cooler just being with Danish people. I couldn’t get enough of telling everyone at Target, Costco, Winco, Best Buy, Sports Authority, Marshalls, and Fred Meyer that they were Danish (can you tell that one of their favorite things to do while here was shop?)
- The world is a crazy small place. At the end of a long narrow forest road south of Mt. St. Helens we stopped at Lava Canyon for a picnic lunch. As we set up, we could hear people coming down the path speaking Danish. They emerged and lo and behold they were people that the Grabes knew from their town in Denmark. One was a school friend of Christoffer, and the mom had been a teacher of Anne-Marie’s. They were also on holiday in the United States, but had no idea that they would be at the same spot at the same time. What are the chances?
I highly recommend having international visitors to your home if you get the chance. It is a fantastic experience, and they brought us five bottles of Remoulade! We hope that we get the chance to let them return the favor of hosting in the not too distant future.