Willkommen to Ypsilanti!

28 03 2013

Nearly two months after the arrival of our foreign exchange student from Thailand, we had two new guests arriving from Germany. Sven and Torben, based on limited email conversations, would be two young twenty-something college students coming to America for a three month internship in Ann Arbor. They understood that our home would be vegetarian, and close to the bus line, and the basic house rules. The rest was up to fate to see if they would be a good fit for such a long visit as guests.

This was the first time that we have ever accepted a guest for such a long stay without first meeting them. Usually, it’s a U of M student who is in the process of graduating and relocating for a new job, who just needs a month or two after their lease is up. Most international visitors are here just for a couple weeks, or a month at most. We were a little worried about how it would be to host two young males on an American adventure.

wilkommenI made a large sign, “Willkommen Sven & Torben. Du bist HERE in Ypsilanti, Michigan.” with a map of Michigan and a cartoon plane flying into Ypsilanti. We made plans to take our new guests out to dinner Friday night to show them around. By that time, they had already walked to the gym, figured out how to ride the bus back home, and had researched where things are around town. We quickly felt like these twenty-somethings were more like Bank- our exchange student- than like a typical, autonomous house guest. Our role as host moms just got a whole lot bigger.

Here we were, surrounded by testosterone, and it struck us that it was a little like a reverse Harem. M-e-r-a-h, we starting calling it.  We went to Sidetrack’s, where each of us could enjoy a variety of menu options to choose from, but specifically the new guys could try a nationally recognized American burger. We were seated on the quieter side, but near a birthday group of 10. As the meal went on, the mid-life ladies grew more and more inebriated, and it became more difficult to hear one another over their loud cackling. It was quite the contrast to our male guests. Despite the din, we managed to share quite a bit about ourselves and our cultures.

germans welcomeWe were surprised at how many little things were the same in both Germany and Thailand. Several times I heard, “Really? We have in my country TOO!” It was a very fun multicultural exchange, and we were glad that Bank was able to participate so fully in welcoming the new Germans. After dinner, we walked the guys over to the Ypsi food co-op to show them what they could walk to for groceries. Then we started walking back towards home, with plans to go to the Tap Room for drinks and a game of pool. Bank was exhausted and decided to head home without us, while the four of us remaining kept going another block to Michigan Avenue.

We walked into the dark, half-empty bar, and saddled up next to the pool table. We grabbed a table nearby, and then also explained the shuffleboard table that was just on the other side of the half wall from where we were sitting. After Bethany ran into the owner and got a lengthy explanation of the rules for shuffleboard, we decided to try that instead. Bethany likes to say that she beat us handedly, but in reality they came out ahead at the very end to beat us 15 to 13. We retired to our table to continue our conversations, only briefly. Bethany noticed that someone had left the pool table with an unfinished game. I encouraged her, and she stood up to finish the game and show them how to play.shuffleboard

There are two pool table next to each other at Tap Room, and another group was celebrating and looming around the other table. Bethany quickly introduced herself, since they would be knocking pool sticks together soon anyways, and so began another chapter of our evening.

First, there was a woman who was there celebrating her boyfriend’s birthday, and Bethany offered to take their photo. The woman commented on my wallet chain with surprising interest. It did not seem to go with her high heeled pumps. Apparently, her interest was because she wouldn’t let her boyfriend wear his out that evening (perhaps because it did NOT go with her pumps), and insisted that he get a photo taken with me and my wallet chain.

With the birthday group was another woman who was extremely well-served and louder than the entire gaggle combined at the restaurant. She was there drinking away a bad day, and quickly latched onto us. Once she understood that Bethany and I were a couple, she wanted to know more. She lavished us with open acceptance, and wanted to know more about us both. She quickly discovered that she and I are both Geminis. Oh boy! At that point, I was her new BFF. She must have told me her name- Randy McQueen- a dozen times, to make SURE that I would find her on Facebook. (Note- I DID try to find her later, but my search yielded no results).

Our German guys found this entirely amusing, and, honestly, so did I. Bethany practically got an invitation to Sean Diddy’s New Year’s Eve party from the wallet-chain-disliking cougar with the young boyfriend, since she bonded with Bethany over dating a younger person. The whole encounter was surreal, and we were giggling about it for days afterward.

“Welcome to Ypsi, boys!” I felt like yelling as we left the bar. We’ve got it all in our fine town, and I’m sure you’ll find your place here just fine.

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