I was going to title this post “Why Foreigners Make Me Giddy”, but I’m not sure if I know exactly why they make me giddy. Maybe some of you, my trusty blog friends, can analyze this and tell me why! Here is the rundown on my foreign connections, starting way back in the days of my childhood:

1. In 5th grade, a set of twin girls from Germany (I still remember their names: Claudia and Corinna Heine!) came to my town to stay with their Grandma for the year. I befriended Corinna and spent lots of days at her Oma’s house, learning all kinds of stuff about German language, baking, and other goodies. I can’t believe I’m posting this photo, but ugh, here it is. Corinna and I were doing some kind of song and/or presentation about Germany for Girl Scouts:

I was sad when she had to go back home.

2. When I was between the ages of (approximately) 11 and 14, I subscribed to some kind of magazine (can’t remember which one) that had an ad in the back for a place that would, for a small amount of money–I think $1.00 each–send you the address of someone outside of your country who wanted a penpal. I LOVED getting mail–who doesn’t?–and I loved getting to know these other people all over the world. I gradually built up my pen pal “collection” to 12 or 13 people! Unfortunately, the letter-writing only lasted until I was a sophomore in high school and I eventually lost touch with all of them. The excitement I felt has been matched a few times; for example, I received a holiday card from Katie a couple of weeks ago, and I giddily ran into the house yelling, “I got a card from Australia! I got a card from Australia!” (unfortunately, nobody was at home to share in my joy…)

3. Began my fascination with England and the Royals at the time of Charles and Diana’s wedding.

4. I started German language class in 8th grade. LOVED IT. I even took part in German competitions like Extemporaneous Speaking, Poetry Recitation, Baking, Crafts, and many more at the annual Fruehlingsfest at Tennessee Tech University. I would eventually compete for a total of five years, through my senior year in high school.

5. At the same time, in the summers of 1982-1983, I participated in a CISV Student Interchange. A German girl who was my age (Tina) came to stay with my family during the 1982 Knoxville (Tennessee) World’s Fair for a whole month! The following year, I stayed with her family in Darmstadt, Germany. They were great and we went on short trips to the Munich area as well as France, Austria, and Switzerland. This is from a scrapbook that they made for me right before I left to go home.

6. In the summer of 1984, my family played host for a few days to four (yes, FOUR!) international students who had spent a year in the U.S. through AFS. They were doing some group travelling at the end of their experiences before heading back to their respective countries. We enjoyed the company of Lottie from Norway, Susan from England, Ayjo from Iceland, and Owen from New Zealand.

From the left: Owen, Ayjo, me, Mom, Lottie, Dad, Susan

7. While I continued German class each year through high school, I also took Spanish in my junior year and Russian in my senior year.

8. I subscribed to not one but two international travel magazines as a senior in high school, and regularly got together with a good friend (also a subscriber) to “plan” trips.

9. Kept up with Prince Andrew and Sarah Ferguson in the time leading up to the wedding–even kept a scrapbook (LOSER!) though I had no plans of stalking them.

10. I spent the fall of 1986 at Tennessee Tech University as a freshman majoring in German, and had a work-study program with the foreign language department. My jobs included typing out quiz questions for the annual Fruehlingsfest so they could be stored on the computer, and making copies of a German television show (which I had to watch at the time: how educational!) onto new videotapes. (I ended up leaving in December to get married, and then I switched my major to Elementary Education. My only regret is that I couldn’t have finished the year there; I had been placed in Second Level German and was told that if I finished the whole year, I would get credit for the ENTIRE First Level as well. Oops…young love!)

11. While Jim was on sea duty in the Navy, I was at home in Virginia being all jealous of the places he got to see on the three Mediterranean cruises he took in the first 3 years of our marriage.

12. Fast forward to February 2006: Within a day of my complaint to Jim that I never get to “go anywhere”, Kate asked me to accompany her and her husband and toddler on a trip to Europe in June.

13. First stop? Liverpool.

We stayed at Albert Dock, which is a gorgeous area on the Mersey River, and the Beatles Story Museum is there too.

The Liverpool area is home to Rob and Louise and their girls. As a Grad Student, Rob came from his then-home in Scotland to stay with Kate in her home in Tennessee, and that’s how they know each other. This was my first meeting. They were wonderful hosts, especially considering that Louise just gave birth less than 3 months before our arrival. They spent three straight days entertaining us. On one of the days, Rob took us around downtown Liverpool and showed us the sights, including the Cavern Club, of Beatles’ fame. Although I am not a die-hard Beatles fan, it was amazing to be there, and it was really “heavy” to stand on a stage that has so much significance in music history.

14. I also met Rob’s retired parents, Bob and Susan, who left Scotland upon retirement to settle in North Wales. THIS is one of the most beautiful places on earth; I’m totally sure about it. Here is their backyard:

Here is the VIEW from their backyard:

Here is Conwy Castle:

Here is the whole gang:

(Rob, Susan, Louise, Scott, Kate, Bob, Me…and in front, Anna, Mia, and Lilly)

I regularly correspond with Susan; we also send each other little gifts like candy and notecards. Ironically, one of the first letters I got from her details how excited she is to correspond with someone from America, because when she was a young girl her sister had a penpal and she was a little jealous. Susan keeps me up to date on their travels, their fun with the grandchildren, and her activities with her daughter, Fiona: they make crafts and sell them. I wish I could help them sometimes. LOL

15. Next stop? Dresden, Germany. OY. I was in heaven.

When I had been to Germany in 1983 I lived in the Western part, before the wall came down. Dresden is in the east and it was fascinating to see the sights there. What made me the happiest is that I got tons of practice speaking, hearing, and reading the language.

Here is the inside of the Frauenkirche dome:

I made Kate walk soooo far so that we could visit the self-proclaimed “Most Beautiful Dairy Store in the World”. Now, I have not been to many dairy stores in the world, (after this one, I can say I’ve been to…ONE) but I will agree. It is GORGEOUS. It is covered in handmade tiles and I have never seen anything like it. There were signs up saying “No Pictures”, but that doesn’t stop me. I was very “stealth” about the whole operation. I made Kate nervous though, so she waited outside. Here it is, in all its glory:

I also noticed the adorable traffic signal in Dresden. Here is Ampelmann:

I thought it was really interesting that shops even sold t-shirts with him on it, and when I got home I did some research and found out why: He is a mascot for the East German Nostalgia Movement. It’s a very interesting story; read about it here.

16. Last summer (2007), I accompanied the fifteen-year-old on a Boy Scout trip to the Bahamas. We went sailing for a week, and the Captain of our boat and his wife are British:

They don’t always dress like this. It was Pirate Day.

We had such a good time on board their ship; we even had tea time every afternoon! They told us that ours was the first troop to have tea with them. I cried my way to the airport when we left, and I still keep in touch with them.

My life has been so enriched by all of these experiences, and although I’m a “people-person” in general, I absolutely adore meeting people from places outside of the USA. I love absorbing what is different about other places in the world, and I love learning new things.

So, blog friends…I may have just answered my own question, but feel free to analyze me!