Dick returned on Wednesday and our first official visitor came along with him — Mama Smid! We’ve enjoyed showing her our house, village and surroundings. They were both sleep deprived and jet lagged so they slept in on Thursday, while I went to work. On Friday, we set off to visit some family and friends further north in Doetinchem and Gengelo. The first stop was coffee time at Om Jaap and Tante Joke’s house. I was able to follow most of the conversation in Dutch. Their daughter Annemieke and granddaughter arrived after a while and we spoke to them in English. This was the first time Dick had met this particular cousin. We had a nice time getting to know them a little. The next stop was in Gengelo, about an hour further, to visit/meet the Reinhout’s, some old friends of the Smids. They have a beautiful home and garden. We had lunch there and then went into town to see a thrift shop where Mrs. Reinhout volunteers. After that we drove out to a place where the Smid’s lived temporarily many years ago. It was a bit of an adventure because the buildings and landscape had changed quite a bit from mama’s memories. A relative of the past owners came along to explain what had happened over the last 30+ years. We drove back home through Germany and stopped in Venlo for a yummy dinner at a restaurant on the Markt.
Saturday we went to the grote markt in Eygelshoven and shopped for fruit, veggies, bread and meat. This markt was voted the best market in NL this year. The prices and selection are unbelievable! Three pints of raspberries for €3 ($3.29), for instance. After lunch back at home, we drove into Maastricht. We did some shopping and showed mama around the city. The weather was nice enough to have coffee at a cafe´ by the river.
After church on Sunday, we received visitors from Mechelen, Belgium. Marsha and Alex (friends of the Smid’s) and their two young boys came to see us. We took them into Sittard for a Dutch lunch on the markt. It was warm and sunny; a great day to dine outside. We almost ended up at a German restaurant, but we realized they didn’t really have what we were looking for and moved to a restaurant with a more appropriate menu (not to mention some shade from the sun). Marsha is Dutch, but speaks French and English fluently. Alex is French, speaks Dutch quite well, but he was self-conscious about his rusty English. Their sons speak Dutch and French, but no English yet. I feel bad that my language skills are so lacking. It can be so limiting! I told the boys I would work on my Dutch so I could speak to them more next time. We had coffee outside on our terrace later on and chatted about all sorts of topics including politics. Alex works for a magazine publisher and does design work, so he and Dick had that in common. We really enjoyed our visit with them. They invited us to their home and we will definitely follow up on that in the future.
On Monday, Dick and Mama picked up her friend Chris at the Maastricht train station. She travelled here from Leuven. They spent the day at our house, while I was at work. I was able to meet her after work and chatted with her during dinner. We made a chicken and broccoli casserole, which fortunately tasted pretty good. I think Europeans have a more discerning pallet than Americans, so I was a little nervous. Chris was very pleasant and conversational. I enjoyed listening to her speak about her interest in languages and her time as an expat in the US many years ago. She lived in Switzerland as a child and speaks German, French, Dutch, and English. I think some Italian and Spanish as well.
I’m glad that Mama Smid was able to visit us and even more grateful that she introduced us to family and friends. Every encounter was a pleasure and I learned something new from each person. I think that Americans tend to have a narrow view (I’d have put myself in that category not long ago), because we aren’t exposed to other cultures as a matter of course. There are ways to make it happen, but it has to be intentional. Some of my family members host international students, which is a great way to learn about other cultures without traveling. Missionaries can be cultural ambassadors as well.
I hope I can maintain this mind-expanding point of view even after we return to the States. I’m probably going to have to keep traveling to foreign lands to do that, though!