Monday, May 29, 2006

Meeting Karen and Marylou

Well, as most of you already know, we have made it back safely to Belgium by now.
I will however, still continue to work on this blog, if for nothing else, then to have our personal memories of a trip of a lifetime recorded somewhere. I might even print the whole thing once it's done. Or maybe over time some little things will still pop into my head that I think are worth writing down so I won't forget them.
Plus, if I ever do get started on the scrapbook or at least a regular photo album of this trip, I will have some ideas to work with and won't have to re-write everything or trying to remember and realize how much I've forgotten already. I already think that I've forgotten so much now... It's been such an amazing experience and we've seen and done so much that I fear I won't remember it all. Maybe it'll all come back in bits and pieces. I do have a little journal with notes in from which I can work for now though. Lucky I did at least that while we were driving!!

When we got to Galesburg, finding the house of the host family of Jan's niece was very easy, again thanks to the road book he made of course. But also coz of the way a lot of american towns are laid out. Very straight streets, it looks like they've been drawn right there with a ruler. Streets in one direction (like maybe west) are called "streets", the other direction (like north) has "avenues". Mostly they are numbered, sometimes they go by a name. Like a street that's called "Rail Road Street".... Isn't that funny???? LOLOLOL
It's real easy to get around because of that straight layout. Well, if you have a good sense of direction that is. You do need to know at all times where north, east, south and west are, or you're just plain lost. the getting lost part is definitely what happens to me alllll the time of course. Unlike Jan, he always knows exactly where we are, or almost anyway. Close enough to get us back on track. LOL
Most cities in Europe have a center and the town has been build around that. And I mean aROUND that, no street is really straight, most will have funny curves. On the other hand, as Jan says, that makes for more interesting driving, straight lanes can get a bit boring after a while. Especially when you drive an automatic... LOL

Well, onto the business of the day now. We got to the house, and Karen was already outside as I had called her about half an hour before to let her know that we were close, very close. Hugs all around, and she immediately commented on my weight loss, which none of the rest of the family members had done so far... hmm...
We went in and were greeted by her host parents Rick and Aleta, and the dog. Lovely people, I'm happy that she found such a great home-away-from-home. You need some support when you are away from your own friends and family for such a long time, and we're very happy that she had that, even though we could stay in touch by e-mail and phone calls. Of course we didn't arrive empty handed, and gave them some belgian chocolates. Karen just jumped up and down with a smile from ear to ear, coz she couldn't find the brand she wanted anywhere over there!! LOL
We agreed to go out for dinner together at a local Asian Buffet that was a fairly new place in town. In the mean time, we went to check in to our hotel, which was right in the center of Galesburg, at the town square. I had already called my friend Marylou several times, so we wouldn't miss each other there. She had come all the way from Nebraska just to meet us, and we all stayed in the same hotel!!! How cool is that??? :-)
The receptionist of the hotel was very friendly and when he saw on our ID that we were from Belgium, he asked if we might have some euro coins for him. He'd pay for them. Turns out he's a collector. LOL
I can understand that most americans are very interested in seeing what the euro coins look like, with one side all the same, and a different side for each country. I bet most of you won't get to see these coins easily in real life. But why didn't anyone tell us that your quarters have the different states on the back side???? Of course now I want them all!!! I know I'll have to wait to get a complete set, coz apparently it's a program that runs over a couple of years and coins with other states are being released from time to time. I just wish someone had told us sooner!!! I had to find that out all by myself!! By then it was already too late to collect most of them I guess. Or not? I don't even know which ones have been released already, and which ones are still on the waiting list.

Then the reception guy made us taste PEANUT BUTTER!!!! Now what can I say about that american staple??? hmm, let's see... Yuck??? UGH???? Blèch??? I'm running out of descriptive words for this icky mushy thing that you all seem to like so much. But I'm not a quitter and will try anything twice. Some things you just need to get used to. So I tried it again. But to no avail. Sorry, not our taste I'm afraid!!

Marylou and the two of us met in the hotel bar, which was actually a quite nice and cosy bar. Apparently very popular with the local folk too, it also had a door to the outside so you didn't always have to pass the hotel reception. They organized karaoke and bingo on a regular basis it seemed. Some of the guests that stayed in the hotel were kinda... weird... to say the least. LOL
Marylou and I have known each other through e-mail probably since the first month I joined the yahoo internet community, which I guess is now around 6 or 7 years or so. So when we finally met in real life, we hugged and hugged!! Then onto talking and chatting and exchanging gifties. I hope Jan wasn't too bored, he enjoyed his american beer while we were chatting... LOL
Marylou joined us for the dinner at the Asian Buffet and so did Jason, Karen's US boyfriend (I think). So, suddenly, there were 7 of us going out to dinner!!
I just loved that asian buffet, so much CHOICE!!! And the PRICE!! What we paid for all 7 of us would be at least the price that we'd pay for the two of us back in Belgium!! And then we even wouldn't have had as much choice as we had here! I just love chinese food. I wanna go baaaack!!! Whaaa!!!!!

Before saying goodbye for the night, Marylou and I made arrangements to go shopping the next morning and then in the afternoon we were gonna have a stamp session in her hotel room for which Karen and her guest mom Aleta would join us. In the mean time, Jan was gonna find a shoe repairer, coz I had lost a piece of the heel of one of my shoes, and I really needed those later on the trip!!! They fitted the outfit I had foreseen to wear to the graduation we were invited to in Washington DC. So I NEEDED them... I'm guessing part of that shoe got left in Manda's car or something, or maybe at Ruby Tuesdays... LOL

Okay, that's it for now, you'll get to read about the rest later!! LOL


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