Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Personalities, Friendship and Hospitality

Just last evening two friends dropped in unexpectedly. I loved that they decided to do so, as it "says" a couple of things to me that I think are important. They thought that they would be "welcome" and my heart would be "open". It is nice that they thought so "highly" of me, besides the fact that they wanted to see me. It was a nice visit, as I hadn't seen one of them in a year. We needed to share the events in our lives. The visit got me thinking about the friends and family we saw in Europe and it made me smile.....over the differences in personalities and in how they showed their hospitality!

One friend, Fritz, is so outgoing that he greeted me with a bear hug, continued squeezing my arms as he kissed me on each side of the face three times and told me "how beautiful I was"! I told my husband that that would not be a bad greeting ever so often :)! He is a friend of my husband's since before junior high days and they were part of a motocycle "club" of their own making. Soon after arriving, Fritz took us to "scout out" his local town. He treated us to ice cream and we went back to meet his daughter, Iris. Iris has just graduated from high school and was to take her examinations to enter Cambridge to study English and literature. She wants to teach in Japan. She loves Japanese culture and hopes to meet a Japanese man. It was a delight to talk with her. She has made an impact on her father, as well. Fritz has taken an interest in her interest of reading and it was interesting to share their "experiences" in reading around the dinner table. Trus, Fritz's wife, had made lasagna, in honor of our upcoming trip to Italy.

We visited Chris in his Swiss chalet overlooking the Alps! We had heard about this chalet for over 30 years, as Chris was my husband's room-mate while getting their Ph.Ds. He teaches Physics 3 days a week in the French-speaking side of Switzerland, although he was brought up in the Italian speaking side. But, he spoke Swiss German to his sister, who we also met, after hearing of her for many years! I had to grin as I watched the two of them discuss "metaphysics". It was like old times, as if time hadn't passed at all. But, then, my husband started abruptly speaking Dutch! I sat there not knowing if Chris understood everything or not. He was cooking "sheep meet" over an open fire. When I interrupted my husband to ask if he was aware of his change of language, we all laughed. We were blessed as we awoke the next morning to a sliding glass door view of the snow covered Alps with evergreens all around! The chalet sits at one of the highest passes in the Swiss Alps! It was breath-taking. When I mentioned how beautiful the view was and why anyone would want to save that room as the guest room, Chris' sister, Ursala, said that she had given her room to us! I was touched.

When we arrove back from Italy, we went to see another old friend from my husband's motorcyle club, Aad. He and his wife talked about European politics, business, and our children. They took us to a charming local resturant and we were grateful for their picking up the tab. It is so interesting to get another side of the story in political/cultural/social issues and these friends have always obliged us with good conversation and stimulating discussion.

My husband's family was no less hospitable. We stayed while in the Netherlands with his sister and brother in law. They had just moved into a high rise, and tho they had less space than usual, but made space for us. They travelled with us throughout Italy and we enjoyed their company. Rob tends to sing in the morning, as he is a morning person. The rest of us are not! But, I always had to smile when I heard him in a nearby shower stall singing away. We have a family joke about Rob's singing a "Fa" (a brand name soap and shower products) song while we camped as a family with them in France many years ago.

Even though we experienced many hospitable people throughout our time in Europe, I was most touched by my husband's graciousness as we travelled back through Germany to the Netherlands. We stopped at a nice hotel outside of Rottenburg off the "Romantic Road". We had stopped in Rottenburg about 19 years ago, when my husband attended a conference in southern Germany. He had wanted to "experience" this again with me, and reminisce, as well a express his gratitude for my "living" in a pup tent and cooking over a camp stove for the past three weeks while travelling in Italy. I was hungry, so he wanted to accompany me to the hotel's resturant, where the view would have taken anyone's breath away. But, because he had not been feeling well and had had a high fever for a few nights, I insisted that he not sit with me. We resolved the problem with room service. So, I enjoyed a nice meal while watching CNN. My husband slept. This is normal for my "tender" husband. And it showed his open heart towards me. I was blessed.

So, our trip to Europe this time was a double blessing, as we got to visit in the individual homes, instead of meet in a "pub". And we delighted over each person's unique way of expressing their hospitality. I loved it and them.

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