One of the neat things about overseas travel is that you meet people from overseas … duh.
Four years ago on a trip to Spain, the wife and I met a couple from New Zealand whom we instantly bonded with and traded native colloquialism like theirs, “I have to point Percy at the porcelain,” (I’ll let you figure that one out) or ours, “Sucks to be you.”
At the end of that trip our very gracious new friends told us that we must come visit them in New Zealand, which we did last February.
Naturally on that trip, we wanted to reciprocate by inviting our Kiwi friends to Northwest Ohio for a taste of life in the Midwest.
“What have we done?” I panicked when we got a text that said they were coming. “They’re from an island with volcanoes, fjords and rain forests, surrounded by oceans and heavenly vistas. How are we going to compete with that?”
Gently trying to calm me down the wife said, “Chill out, you neurotically ridiculous man. They are coming to see us, not some award-winning National Geographic panoramic seascape. Besides, they will also be touring the East and West Coasts.”
“Good thing,” I said, “because once we show them Poe Ditch and the pea soup we call Lake Erie, they will be flying back to New Zealand faster than a flock of Kiwis.” (The joke here is that a Kiwi is a flightless bird. It is also a delicious fruit, which ironically can fly much better than the Kiwi bird.)
Well, a couple of weeks ago our Kiwi friends arrived from Auckland, a city of about 1.4 million, and I must say that I have never been more proud of all that Northwest Ohio has to offer.
“So Kiwis,” the wife asked, “Would you like to see a real live American baseball game?”
“Oh yes!” the Kiwis said. “We’ll go pack our knickers. Do you think we’ll need three or four pair?”
“Whoa, whoa, whoa!” I said. “Why the knickers?”
“Well, isn’t baseball like cricket? Our matches are three to five days long. A clean pair of undies at the 70th hour stretch is quite refreshing.”
The baseball game was a real hit (pun intended) as the Toledo Mud Hens beat the Louisville Bats 7-4. And it only lasted about four hours followed by amazing fireworks, all while wearing the same pair of knickers.
A Firefly Festival in downtown Bowling Green showed our Kiwi friends what small-town living was like as we introduced them to friends and neighbors attending the festival. They were very impressed with the friendliness of our little community.
The Toledo Art Museum, Tony Packo’s, a neighborhood barbecue and a river walk completed the short visit they spent with us.
But I think the thing that impressed them most in our little corner of the world was wine tasting at the grocery store. Nowhere in New Zealand can you pick up your veggies, pharmaceuticals, dry goods and breads, sample four of your favorite wines and then hit the freezer section before going home. They loved it, so we had to go back twice.
It was sad to say goodbye to our Kiwi friends not knowing when we will see them again. But what wonderful memories we have created of our time together in each other’s countries.
Maybe someday we’ll meet at a cricket match. I’ll pack the knickers.
Raul Ascunce is a columnist for the Bowling Green Sentinel-Tribune, a sister paper to The Lima News within AIM Media Midwest.