Clueless in America. Chapter 54

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54. Betsie’s Homecoming.

It is always hard saying good-bye to good friends. The friends that we were leaving this crisp cool Wisconsin morn’ I met over a table-tennis table on a Philippino island. It was this very table-tennis table and its American competitors that taught me that Americans are good people and that I had a lot to learn from them, and especially their encouraging attitude towards sporting opponents. So it was somewhat with a melancholic heavy heart that we headed south. Betsie, on the other hand, seemed to be bouncing down the road full of excitement at the prospect of heading home. When we crossed the invisible border back in Illinois she instantly started singing.

We more-or-less had to drive due south in a straight line then hang a left or east into Auroa. There were no turns on that straight road, the map said so, however we managed to find one and take it. The official line is, ‘We made a wrong turn on a straight road’. Poor Betsie, she seemed more than a little bit keen to get rid of us. We asked for directions and were once again pointed south. We still managed to arrive in Auroa early so stopped at a supermarket. In this supermarket I purchased two of the most useful things I have ever bought. They travelled home insulated and protected amongst my soft clothes in my bag, and are now treated with the utmost respect in our home. These two things really were America’s gift for me. I simply do not know how I have managed to survive for so, so long without my turkey baster (155) and my chook thermometer(156).

We met up with our friends in Auroa and promptly went out to their favourite local restaurant. It was Greek or Italian or something like that. Upon receiving the menu I aggressively hunted down the burgers, knowing that I could only be disappointed now that the La Crescent standard is part of my vocabulary. The burger was still pretty darn good, and so was the company. We left with the hope of returning in the morning for church. We visited one more friend in a cafe close by before venturing home or should I say, before venturing to Betsie’s home.

Betsie was excited, but I promise you I was not. Chicago’s roads are bumpy, overcrowded and generally terrifying for this lil-ole Kiwi. By the time we left, it was dark, the map needed to be read via flash-light, both navigator and driver were tired and I was sick of driving roads that I had never been on before.

With great relief we arrived back at the start in Elmhurst. We did not have Franklin Graham or a Care Net dinner waiting for us, just gladly the comfort of our friends and their home. Betsie on the other hand seemed to wait until we had dragged out of her our last Wisconsin souvenir before, if I am not mistaken, locking her own doors and letting out a very large sigh of relief. She not so quietly settled into her own driveway. This night she did not need a US military sticker to keep the parking police at bay.

We rose kind of early in the morning, grabbed our coffee and walked out to Betsie. Betsie did not look impressed, but on the account that we were not carrying lots of bags, she humoured us and let us drive her back to Auroa and church, we only got lost once on the way. Church was in a building that perhaps was once a beautiful old stately home. We spoke a little in the service, received some prayer, caught up with old friends and acquaintances, then high-tailed it back to Elmhurst, spring-cleaned Betsie, filled her tank and did one last gift shopping trip. I am ashamed to say that it was at a Wal-Mart.

It was this evening that the seed for the idea of writing this story was planted. My friend took me to an Italian sandwich restaurant to buy some take-away. He being well aware of culture-shock and cross-culturalism prepped me in advance. He worked out what we wanted and told me what number it was. The plan was I just needed to ask for, well let’s say number twelve, pay and leave. This was my last night in America, so keeping things simple seemed perfect to me. The restaurant was way cool, it was set up like a fifties American diner, not too dissimilar to the one in ‘Happy Days’. I was like a kid in a candy store just gawking at all the memorabilia. By the time I got to the counter I was lost in another world, when suddenly a smiley, gawky, pimple-faced teenager asked me in a overly friendly voice ‘What would you like to order?’ I panicked as I was snapped back into twenty-first century American life. Being well prepped I blurted out ‘Twelve thanks, gi’me a twelve’. Relieved to get that over and done with, I logged off and shut down to the sound of a frantic, pimple-faced teenager in a red waistcoat wanting to know if I wanted fries and a drink with that. I was too tired and lost it. Going through my mind was ‘How the hang am I supposed to know if these are included in the price or not?’ But all that came out was a blood curdling cry for help in the form of shouting my friend’s name in hope that he would come and rescue me. Even though I actually got his name wrong, like a knight in shining armour with a hot Italian sandwich in his hand, he came to my rescue and cleaned up my mess. I had finally lost my patience for this beautiful country and realised that I needed to have a holiday from America. As we left the restaurant I thought, ‘I gotta write this crap down’. Little did I realise that I would be sitting in a snow laden Baltic cafe eighteen months later feeling rather lethargic finishing off my second to last chapter.

That evening we went to what we in churchianity call a home-group. This is just an excuse to fellowship together and study the Bible. It was a fitting finish to Christian America. Lovely people in a lovely house worshipping their God together in the freedom that their forefathers came seeking. In a sense our final hours in America were spent participating in one part of the American dream. Afterwards feeling uplifted and loved we were driven to the airport. Not the other one, but this time to O’Hare. We said our farewells to our friend, even Betsie seemed genuinely sad to see us go, then we entered the terminal.

Tune in next week for the final chapter.

For past chapters click here. Or look on the side panel.

You may have noticed some bracketed numbers in this chapter. These numbers correspond with explanations and definitions that are in an accompanying glossary. To read the glossary you will need to by the yet to be released book. Sorry!

Thank you so much for reading out for lunch. If you would like to contribute toward the running of out for lunch or donate money towards my writing projects, please click on the donate button. Thanks Kel.

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