Snapshots by Gloria Freeland - Aug. 29, 2008

Hallo ... und Tschüss, wieder!

Daughter Katie, husband Art and I arrived at the Kansas City airport around 9 p.m. and quickly checked the arrival listings. The flight from Cincinnati was on time, but we still had 45 minutes before it landed.

The time passed quickly and soon Nadja and boyfriend Tim were hugging us and we were doing the same. Nadja had spent a school year with us and it was hard to say goodbye to her when she left for her home in Germany in June 2006.

We had been expecting to meet both her parents when we went to Berlin a year later, but her father died a few months before our arrival.

But we had met Tim that summer and now the two of them would be spending a month with us - a return visit for Nadja and a first for Tim.

The trip from Berlin had left them tired, so after a "refueling" stop at McDonald's, they passed the trip back to Manhattan sleeping.

That was July 17 and the days that followed were pretty well filled. Nadja told us at the very start that she wanted to pay - to compensate us for the food and all the rest. We just laughed and told her that she was part of the family and we weren't in the habit of taking payments from family members. Then we warned them that they weren't getting any special treatment - they'd just be part of the family.

And that happened quickly! Aunt Kay and Uncle Stan were visiting from California, so Nadja and Tim were immediately thrown into a supper at Mom's home that included brother Dave and wife Linda, sister Gaila and her two daughters along with Mom's friend Stan.

The next day Tim accompanied Art to Salina to help Art deliver some units he had just finished.

The next few days were busy for Art and me, so we loaned the pickup to Nadja so she could show Tim the places where she had spent time when she had been with us. They did some sightseeing, but the sights they seemed most interested in were the mall and Wal-Mart. Our weak dollar made everything seem inexpensive to them.

The following two weeks we spent at our cottage in Wisconsin. Along with swimming, they perused the giant flea market in St. Germain, road Go-Parts, shopped, visited the Potawatomi museum, went tubing, watched a water ski show and did a host of other things. Evenings often involved grilling hamburgers, brats or trout and playing a game of Clue.

And that "part of the family" thing? One bathroom for six people assured that came to pass.

Nadja had been so impressed by Lake Superior in 2005 that we set aside one day to visit it again. It was one of those days when everyone was more inclined to sit in the shade and relax than to wander through the museum or the shops on Madeline Island. But we enjoyed the 20-minute ferry ride across Lake Superior and, later in the day, the time spent on a deserted section of beach facing the unseen Canadian coast.

The trip to Wisconsin culminated in Art's Mom's family reunion. I would have expected it to be too much with all the people, but Nadja and Tim seemed to enjoy every bit of it. A ride on a pontoon boat, an afternoon of swimming and a few card games at the end of the day with the younger members of the clan helped them pass the time.

After we returned to Manhattan, they had only one day before their return flight. They spent most of it visiting Nadja's former teachers at Riley County High School and one of Nadja's RCHS schoolmates, who was home from her freshman year of college.

When Nadja left us in 2006, she had been thinking about becoming a doctor. But last year she spent some time working in a Berlin hospital and the experience convinced her that she preferred being a nurse. So she will begin her training soon.

Tim is interested in becoming an aeronautical engineer, but first he has to complete his civilian service. He decided he would help out as a teacher's assistant in a school for youngsters.

But before they returned home, Nadja wanted to do one additional thing - eat at Carlos O'Kelly's. So she invited the whole family to join them.

As we were finishing our meal, someone asked Tim what he thought of the United States. He said he really liked it and then added that he also liked how Nadja was "different" here. When he was asked in what way, he answered, "She is more free, more funny and she seems happier."

We all looked at Nadja. She smiled and said, "I am."

When we asked why, they both replied, "People here are so friendly."

As an example, Tim said, "In Germany we go to something like a reunion because it is expected for you to go. All the people do is sit around and complain. But here the people were laughing and it was fun."

Tim added that maybe his perception of home was somewhat distorted because his mother is a physician and so everywhere they go, people are always asking her about their aches and pains and what they might mean.

So it seems Nadja and Tim had a good time and we certainly enjoyed having them with us. The days flew by and the "Hallo" of July was followed too quickly by the "Tschüss" of August. Hallo . . . und Tschüss, wieder! - Hello . . . and goodbye, again.

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