No, this isn’t a reflection on the supposed ties between marriage and reincarnation when you are in a feverish state. It’s just a recap (long overdue) of my trip to America this summer.
This time I was not alone. Usually I am a solitary traveler, but this time my girlfriend Queenie joined me to visit America for the first time. We had mostly come back for my brother’s wedding but also for me to introduce Queenie to my friends and family and for her to spend time with her good friend, Bobbie.
We arrived in Chicago, sleep-deprived and weary, but we needed to find the Parthenon Hostel in downtown Chicago to meet my sister and brother-in-law. After some unintended meandering, we found the metro and arrived at the hostel at midnight. Mark and Rache were worried we had gotten lost or worse. I was just happy that we found the right place, and there was an empty bed.
The next day we woke up to a brilliant blue, nearly cloudless sky. That day Chicago had an international food festival with over 50 food booths including fried chicken, tacos, pad thai, and lobster. I tried a spinach artichoke quesadilla and cauliflower hummus, both of which were surprisingly good. Later we shared a massive plate of fried potato chips. After eating berry cheesecake and lemon water ice, I found some extra room for bruschetta before taking a rest.
After the food gorging, we drove to Valparaiso, Indiana to see Mark’s hometown. We played a few rounds of doubles ping-pong and ate dinner at Culver’s. Later we had some ice cream together, but the conversation was slowly getting more garbled and indistinct. It was time to sleep.
The next day we visited Mark’s church, which had over 1,200 members. I think that was somewhat of a shock for Queenie. Back in China, churches were much smaller and more localized. Later that day, we went to the Indiana Dunes and walked along the shore of Lake Michigan. It was the perfect day to swim, but we hadn’t brought our swimsuits. Such irony.
The next day we drove to Michigan to meet the rest of the family. It was good to see everyone again. I suffocated Mary and Sarah with a bear hug so they could know they were still my little sisters. Josh and Amanda were on the way, and Math was working. So we were missing a few people, but soon enough we would all be together.
Jill, Math’s fiance, lived in Holland, Michigan as well as her parents and most of her relatives. Almost the exact opposite of my family. I was in China, Rache and Mark in Germany, and Math in Michigan. The rest were in PA, but that could change. There are pros and cons to living close to your family. I chose to live halfway across the world from them. Not sure what that says about me.
At any rate, we had a few days before the wedding day, four to be exact. So we got in a few family game nights, like Fish Bowl (a concoction of Charades and Catchphrase) and a few card games. Jill’s very friendly golden retriever tried to join in several times. We had to give him timeout.
Another day we went to Lake Michigan, which was the closest we could get to a real ocean. It looked like one until you tasted the water and felt the rocks under your feet. It was still quite cold, which was fairly vexing. We batted a beach ball around for a bit. After I couldn’t feel my hands anymore, I decided to retreat to the warm sands and a dry towel.
Things got busy as the week progressed. I made sure my rental suit fit properly and helped prepare party stuffers (mini s’mores in a bag) with other family members. We basically made an assembly line, assigned individual tasks for ourselves, and moved like a well-oiled machine.
Thursday was time for the bachelor party. First order of business – 9 holes of golf. I remembered how to use the irons, but the drivers and chipper were obstinate beasts that never seemed to send the ball where I wanted it to go. It was somewhat maddening. Throughout the course, we saw several choice ponds that were perfect to throw my brother into. Unfortunately we never came up with a suitable plan to do so.
After golf, we went to Rebounderz, a trampoline funhouse that uses trampolines for basketball, gymnastics, and even Ninja Warrior. I forgot how tiring it was jumping up and down on trampolines, but it was fun to finally dunk on a standard basketball net. We all thought hurling ourselves into a foam pit would be a delightful experience, but wading through hundreds of foam cubes to get out was less enjoyable.
The Ninja Warrior course (a lesser version of the official course) didn’t use trampolines but was sufficiently challenging for us. None of us made it all the way through. Mark cut his knee, Math got rope burn, and I lost all my arm strength. Now that we were exhausted, we needed time to rest before the rehearsal dinner that night.