The landing in Frankfurt, Germany was ummm…culture shock compared with the departure from JFK. It was more like what we deal with now when we choose to travel by air.
I had my camera, of course. When I tried to take a picture when we were going through customs, the Frau in the uniform grabbed it away from me. She told me in no uncertain terms: Nein! Sie können das nicht tun. I got it. I wasn’t in Kansas any more.
We were shuttled from the airport to a Gästehaus near where the conference was to be held. There were three bedrooms with three couples from Word of Life there. And one bathroom. Our freundliche Frau was an energetic woman and her home was immaculate at all times. She gave us good German breakfasts.
She schooled us, too. She objected to the amount of hot water Americans habitually use to take a simple shower. After the first night, she turned off the hot water heater* after about 30 minutes. I imagine she thought that was generous.
The conference was pretty typical Evangelical fare. It was intended to encourage weary missionaries who had been on the field awhile. It’s unfortunate, however, that I don’t remember anything except the meeting when the men and women were in separate rooms. It was mostly tips on getting along with one’s spouse. I do remember clearly one of the tips about hungry, grumpy husbands: “If he’s hungry, feed the beast.”
At long last, we took my ‘cello and boarded our Swiss Air flight to Lisbon. A short hop and we were circling around Lisbon. I could hardly wait.
Every city has it’s own smell, and Lisbon is no exception. After we went through customs, my olfactory nerves began to quiver. Though it was comprised of diesel fuel, cigarette smoke, and other components, to me is was eau de home.
* It was this type of small hot water heater that heats the water as it flows through.
The Amish generally get married in November after the crops are in for the year. After the wedding, they spend the months before planting time visiting relatives from house to house. Harry and I did not visit all of our relatives, but in one way or another we connected with quite a few before we left for Portugal.
The days flew by like a Spine-tailed Swift! One of our projects was writing thank you notes for wedding gifts. People had asked what we needed/wanted and we always told them something that will not break. A few brave souls gave us things like crystal candle sticks, but most of them gave us blankets, sheets, towels – and money. The money, of course, is long gone, but we are still using some of the blankets. Harry manned up and wrote his share of the thank you notes.
While we were still at Central Oak Heights campground, we pulled out some board games one day. Harry wanted to play Monopoly with me, and I demurred. I had given up Monopoly after the summer that I spent hours on a friend’s porch playing it with friends. Finally he made me an offer I couldn’t refuse: he said if I beat him in a game of Monopoly, I would never have to play that game with him again. One down! Then we pulled out the Dutch Blitz cards and I did not fare as well! I think he cheated. 😀
We spent a week at my grandparents’ home. The first night we were there, we discovered that my mischievous little granny had talked my grandfather into short sheeting the bed and putting corn flakes in it. The next morning before we were awake my grandfather knocked twice and then opened the door. He told us to get busy as he was going to build the crates into which we would be packing our things to be shipped by boat. Those crates survived the trip to Portugal and a few moves after that. At times the preparation to move felt surreal.
Our next temporary abode was Harry’s sister’s apartment. She and her husband were heading to Grand Rapids for a week. The next morning we were to head out to Harry’s mom’s family reunion in upstate Pennsylvania. My newly minted father-in-law was knocking on the door at 7 a.m.! That was a long day. There were about 120 members of the family there and they all wanted to talk to the newlyweds, and to me in particular. The apex of the day was when they discovered that the people who were supposed to wash the dishes that year. Apparently, being newlyweds in the family makes one the automatic default for picking up the slack.
Everyone we knew wanted to see us before we left. This entailed a lot of shuffling of dates and commitments. And, of course everyone waited until the last week before we left. But early one morning we said our last goodbyes to family and boarded a plane headed for Frankfurt, Germany where Word of Life was holding a conference for all of the Word of Life missionaries in Europe.