Monthly Archives: October 2016

Scarier Than Ghosts

Halloween isn’t celebrated in the Netherlands like it’s celebrated here in the U.S., so I’m very excited that Noëmi got to experience it here, or, if not the actual holiday, at least the preparation.

The first thing we did was get a couple of pumpkins for carving. Noëmi had never carved a pumpkin before, so she was very excited. We googled “Jack-o-Lanterns” for some good ideas, and then we set to carving.

Noëmi and a big knife

Noëmi and a big knife

pumpkin-guts

Tops off!

A bowl full of pumpkin guts!

A bowl full of pumpkin guts

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Noëmi decided that her pumpkin would be smiley and cute, while I decided mine would be scarier, toothier. They both turned out pretty darn good.

Noëmi's first pumpkin!

Noëmi’s first pumpkin!

Once we had some ghoulish gourds, we set out to spookify the house. I took out my bag(s) of bones, my gravestones, ghosts, and my zombie gnomes, and we went at it.

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Front yard graves

gravestone-and-foot

Back yard body parts

Ghosts!

Ghosts!

We're voting "Yes" on November 8 for a new library; and so is our ribcage and femur.

We’re voting “Yes” on November 8 for a new library; and so is our ribcage and femur.

We did a good job, and will hopefully scare the neighborhood children come Monday’s Halloween trick-or-treatathon. But our house wasn’t the only scary thing in Crystal Lake. There was also…WALMART.

See, one of the first things Noëmi asked me, when we started talking about cultural differences between the Netherlands and the U.S., was, “Can you really buy bullets in the grocery store?” And, although I hated to say it, the answer was, “Well, yeah.”

Because although you can’t get bullets at my local Jewel — and thank goodness for that — you can certainly get them at the local Walmart, where along with your baby formula, vitamins, green peppers for that chili you’re making, and new hand towels for the guest bathroom, you can buy as much ammo as you need! Great!

ammunition

Bullets, bullets, so many bullets! Welcome to the U.S.A.!

Walmart also sells bows and arrows…

noemi-and-bows-and-arrows…and bubble wrap:

Because who doesn't need this much bubble wrap?

Because who doesn’t need this much bubble wrap? And it’s somehow used by the Rebel Alliance, so…there’s that.

For more about Noëmi’s adventures with Halloween and Walmart, check out her excellent blog (it’s in Dutch, but her pictures are terrific [and maybe you read Dutch! I don’t know your life!]).

I’ll have more posts about Noëmi’s last days of adventuring at Camp Crystal Lake and Chicago, so come back soon!

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Netherlands on the Town

It’s been one week since our Dutch visitor Noëmi has been with us, and she has seen and done a lot. Her first few days here, she got the lay of the land and spent a lot of time on campus, meeting my English department colleagues, getting to know the college, and eating ice cream.

For the second half of her first week, I had a few different types of adventures planned. We were going to Chicago for my evening class at UIC, but we had the entire morning and afternoon to do whatever we liked; so we made it count.

After Noëmi observed a history class taught by my award-winning colleague David (he was teaching a lesson on the American Revolution), she and I hit to road into the city. We parked at my parents’ place (they were at the theater so weren’t around to say hello, but we’re going to have dinner with them on Tuesday) and took in the view before wandering the city.

noemi-on-balcony-2 noemi-on-balcony-1

We ate lunch at Macy’s on State Street and then rode the escalator down from the 8th floor to take it all in. I was slightly disappointed that Noëmi didn’t get to experience the department store as it looks when it’s decorated for Christmas, but she got the sights and smells, and get got herself some Frango mints.

Noëmi in Macy's

Noëmi in Macy’s

We walked across the street to the Daley Plaza’s farmer’s market, which was just starting to pack up. They’d dyed the fountain a bright blue in support of the Cubs making the playoffs (and winning the division last night! Go Cubs!), and Noëmi got some good pictures of the unnatural looking water. We stopped for a picture before moving on to Millennium Park.

noemi-in-daley-plaza

Noëmi gets a quick picture under the Picasso

At Millennium Park, we explored the Pritzker Pavilion, the BP Bridge (both designed by Frank Gehry), and, of course, the Bean (a.k.a. Cloud Gate). It was windy and chilly, but the trees were turning and the brisk weather made for great walking.

noemi-in-pritzker-pavilion-1

This is so cool!

“Everything is so big!”

cloud-gate-bean

Cleaning the Bean

Cleaning the Bean

We finished at the park and walked across the street to warm up, first inside Graham Cracker Comics, where Noëmi got a trade paperback copy of The Walking Dead volume one (oh, did I mention that she’s a huge fan of The Walking Dead? SHE’S A HUGE FAN OF THE WALKING DEAD!), and then we sat for a bit in the Chicago Athletic Association Hotel lobby for some sparkling water and comfy chairs.

Although we’d seen a lot already, we had more to do that day. My class, Adolescence in the Schools, was starting at 5 p.m., so we drove over to UIC’s campus. Our topic for the week was gender identity, and Noëmi was able to participate a lot in our discussion, especially during the last thirty minutes of class when we got into small groups to work on what we would include in our ideal sex ed. curriculum. She was surprised that we were even talking about it — that it was even controversial — because in the Netherlands, it’s not a hot-button topic and quite normalized. Very different from our federally mandated “abstinence only until marriage” curriculum.

noemi-in-grad-school

She had a great time, though, and we left class talking about the U.S. school system, gender, and how hungry we were.

We stopped by Wishbone to have some dinner, and Noëmi got to try some Southern-style food without having to travel outside of Chicago. We also watched a couple innings of the Cubs game, and I did my best to explain the sport to her. I did a pretty good job: I used a lot of hand gestures and even got up to mime batting when I explained the strike zone. I think she was impressed.

Dinner at Wishbone: Noëmi's pulled pork and my Southern fried catfish

Dinner at Wishbone: Noëmi’s pulled pork and my Southern fried catfish

We guessed the weight of this pumpkin for a chance to win a Wishbone dinner. I have a good feeling about our chances...

We guessed the weight of this pumpkin for a chance to win a Wishbone dinner. I have a good feeling about our chances…

On Friday we had a much quieter day, going to MCC for the job fair, picking up some materials from the school advising office for Noëmi to take back with her to Summa College, and meeting a couple new friends.

Hey, new friends. You're not very talkative.

Hey, new friends. You’re not very talkative.

We wandered around the Woodstock Square, and I told Noëmi that we’d have to watch Groundhog Day at some point so she could get the full experience.

Image Credit: The Independent

Image Credit: The Independent

That evening, we met up with Lindsay, who coordinated the Dutch scholars’ visit, and her friend Kylie, who is a former student of mine and an amazing young woman, at Duke’s in downtown Crystal Lake. We ate some dinner, drank some beer, and laughed hard about Subarus and Vape Life. It was great.

Saturday was another day out in the world beyond Camp Crystal Lake: specifically, Sonny Acres. For the last seven years or so, the Power family has gone to a pumpkin farm in October, mostly to watch Sadie ride the rides, and also to check out any Halloween costume shops and drink some apple cider. Last year we deviated from the norm by going to Goebert’s Farm in Barrington, and while it was a good time, it just wasn’t the same as ole’ Sonny Acres; so this year we returned to our regular haunt.

When Trevor, Noëmi, and I arrived, Sadie was already in action, getting her Halloween game-face on:

A little more to sharpen the fangs...

A little more to sharpen the fangs…

A couple of little bites...

A couple of little bites…

Et voila!

Et voila — a mini vampire who wants the Cubs to win the World Series!

We wandered around for a couple of hours doing our usual stuff. I introduced Noëmi to apple cider (yes), to the caramel apple (yes and yes), and to rubber Halloween masks (no…okay, yes).

In line for cider with Neill and Fran

In line for cider with Neill and Fran

dr-who-mask

Trevor dons a mask

grilling

We see what’s on the grill

The best part of the afternoon, though, was seeing a Tabitha look-alike. We decided that this little guy is probably Tabitha’s younger brother:

tabithas-brotherThe afternoon was also remarkable for taking what was probably our best selfie, that some jerk hot dog photo-bombed. But since we’ve gotten so good at these, I figured I’d share them all with you:

Hot dog creeper

Hot dog creeper

And that was our last few days! We spent this morning watching Manchester United lose to Chelsea (BOOOOO, CHELSEA!!!!!), but Noëmi wore Trevor’s Memphis Depay jersey to represent the Netherlands.

Depay in the house!

Depay in the house!

I baked up some quick banana bread, which we scarfed down immediately, and now we’re about to go to see some American stores (I’m going to show her Walmart, where they sell weapons, because…AMERICUH), and then home to decorate the house for Halloween. I’ll also spend some time today practicing my Dutch phrases, which Noëmi is teaching me in preparation for my visit to see her in May. This is what I’ve learned so far:

  • I am Laura – Ik ben Laura
  • How are you? – Hoe gaat het?
  • Good – Goed
  • I’m from America – Ik kom uit Amerika
  • I’m a teacher – Ik ben een docent

Stop by next week for more about Noëmi’s continued adventures, and more amazing phrases!

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McHenry County College Goes Dutch

The Dutch are here!

Last week I wrote about the visiting Dutch scholar I’m hosting for the rest of the month. Through our exchange program, I’ll be visiting the Netherlands in May, but for now, my guest, Noemi, and the other six visitors are here, and they’ve been having a lot of fun so far.

They all arrived on Saturday morning, and four of us hosts went to O’Hare to pick them up. They got through customs easily, with the exception of Jacqueline, who declared the dog biscuits she’d brought as a gift for her host’s dog.

airport-pickup

From Left: Anja, Noëmi, Rianne, Esther, and my fellow host, Lori–Rianne holds Jacqueline’s sign as we wait for her to get through customs

Once we got the whole group, the four above, Jacqueline, Patrick, and Frank, we headed back to Crystal Lake and our respective homes so our guests could relax for a bit and get over their jet-lag. Noëmi and I spent our evening eating pizza and talking about our respective colleges while Roo showed Noëmi every single toy she had, and Noëmi politely told her that she wasn’t interested in Roo’s sharpened bones. No, dank je.

On Sunday a group of us walked around Crystal Lake for a bit of fresh air and exercise…

lori-the-tour-guide

Lori explains that Crystal Lake was almost the site of the Olympic rowing competition

…and then that evening, Noëmi and I headed to her house for a potluck party at Lori’s with everyone. But, before we left for the potluck — like, minutes before — as I picked up the casserole dish that was housing my homemade macaroni and cheese that I was bringing to the potluck, this happened:

Oh, sad, sad macaroni and cheese.

Oh, sad, sad macaroni and cheese.

Yes, as the hot dish hit my fingers through the dish cloth I was using as a hot-mitt, I shifted my fingers quickly and dropped the casserole. The dish shattered, and macaroni and cheese was ruined on the floor, and Roo was very anxious to help me clean up.

So, we brought beer to the potluck instead, which was appreciated in a different way, and everyone had a great time.

Monday, Noëmi got to observe her first English class here at the college, and Anja joined her. It was my friend Robert’s class, and he was starting a new topic for a research paper, so Noëmi and Anja got to see how he introduced new materials and explained an assignment.

Anja, Robert, and Noëmi

Anja, Robert, and Noëmi

The visitors all got to take a tour of the campus, and had lunch with our president, Dr. Clint Gabbard, as well, but they wanted to do a bit of exploring in downtown Crystal Lake, so Lori and I took them for a coffee and a walk-around to some of the shops.

Rianne, Noëmi, Anja, and Lori at the cupcake shop

Rianne, Noëmi, Anja, and Lori at the cupcake shop

Books!

Books!

Even more books!

Even more books!

ALL THE BOOKS!

ALL THE BOOKS!

chocolate-frogs

Chocolate frogs at Riverside Candy Shop

riverside-candy

They appreciated the candy shop, but were tired by this time they were a bit worn down, so Noëmi and I headed home to rest. She is a fan of The Walking Dead, and since Season 6 was only just released this past weekend on the Netherlands’ Netflix, she hasn’t had a chance to watch it. So she told her boyfriend, Dave, to watch it back home without her and she and I would watch it this week to catch us up before the Season 7 premiere this Sunday. Needless to say, Monday evening was spent watching a bunch of The Walking Dead. Since I am kind of a fan of the show, and a good host, I felt obligated to watch them with her.

Tuesday, the group went on a neighborhood tour of Chicago led by my colleague and Instructor of Sociology, Mark. Noëmi took a lot of pictures, but I headed to the city myself for my Tuesday afternoon class. No pictures of my class were taken, but check out Noëmi’s blog for some of her Chicago pics.

The group before they left for the city

The group before they left for the city. Roo tried to sneak on the bus, but she was discovered and kicked off. 

On Wednesday, Noëmi got to observe two more classes…

Noëmi in Anne's class

Noëmi in Anne’s class on Wednesday

noemi-in-class

Noëmi chats with Anja and Robert on Monday; Noëmi visits Ted’s class

…and then, yesterday afternoon, the college hosted an open house to meet all of the visitors. And there was ice cream.

ice-cream-social

ron-anja-and-mike

Ron, Anja, and Mike

tim-amy-timothy-and-frank

Frank has got Timothy, Amy, and Tim on the edges of their seats!

juletta-and-noemi

Noëmi and Juletta

lindsay-and-patrick-compare-phones

Lindsay and Patrick, exchanging pictures

lisa-jacqueline-and-eli

Lisa and Eli welcome Jacqueline to the U.S.A.!

Last night after a full day, Noëmi and I went home to cook some chili for dinner, and then watched the presidential debate with Trevor.

Today, I’m bringing her into the city with me for my Thursday night graduate class, and first we’ll stop by Millennium Park to see the Bean. We’ll have more pictures, so check in later on this week to get updates!

Goede nacht, Dutch readers!

Coming Soon:

An explanation of why this macaroni and cheese is on the floor:

sad-macaroni-and-cheese

and other great information about what Noëmi and the other Dutch visitors have been doing this week–come back tomorrow!

The Dutch Are Coming!

For years, my college has been a member of the Illinois Consortium for International Studies and Programs (ICISP), which is the organization we partner with for our study abroad programs (for our students to study overseas) and scholar exchange programs (for our faculty to visit colleges and universities in Europe, the U.K., and China for professional development).

Usually, our college has the budget to fund one or two faculty in a two-way exchange — where one McHenry County College faculty member hosts an international faculty member for two weeks, and then the MCC faculty member travels to the host’s country to stay with her for two weeks. A couple of our faculty members had applied for the program last autumn, had been accepted, and they were all set.

But, as many of you know, the Illinois budget crisis forced a lot of colleges to cut programming, cut jobs, and to enact their own internal budget freezes, which affected travel. A number of colleges in Illinois that had planned to participate in this year’s scholar exchange with the Netherlands had to pull out of the program, leaving about thirty Dutch professors in need of places to stay. Our Chair of International Studies and ICISP liaison got approval for an unlimited number of our college employees to be hosts in a one-way capacity — to host a Dutch professor but not to travel to Holland — and one additional two-way participant.

And guess who applied and was accepted to host and to travel?

Yep! This weirdo is going to Holland!

Yep! This weirdo is going to Holland!

Yahoo! So this month I’m hosting a professor of English from the Netherlands named Noëmi, and in May, just after my spring semester ends, I’ll go to stay with her for a couple of weeks!

I AM VERY EXCITED.

Noëmi (pronounced no-Amy) teaches English at Summa College in Eindhoven. She has two cats, she ran a 10K last weekend, she and her partner are buying their first house and moving next month, and she is smart and super cool.

This is Noemi!

This is Noëmi!

There are seven Dutch professors visiting my college, and others coming and staying with hosts from other Chicagoland colleges. Our liaison put together a schedule for everyone to show them off to the community, and I’ve worked on getting Noëmi into as many of my English department colleague’s classrooms as possible. She’s also going to come with me to classes at UIC, Trevor and I are taking her to see a David Sedaris reading here in Crystal Lake, we’re bringing her with us on our annual Power Family Sonny Acres trip, and I’m going to get us tickets for a play in the city. I have about one million other things I want her to do but I’m worried I’ll overwhelm her, so the rest of the trip we might play by ear. I guess she’ll have to sleep at some point, right?

I’ve been trying to prep everything in the house so we’re all ready for her arrival tomorrow (tomorrow! OMG!), though Roo has been zero help and instead of straightening or going grocery shopping for me, she’s been staring out the window, yawning, and scratching. Useless.

Hi, I'm Roo. Do you need me to do NOTHING AT ALL? Okay.

Hi, I’m Roo. Do you need me to do NOTHING AT ALL? Okay.

A few of us are going to pick up the visitors at O’Hare tomorrow, and they will be greeted with signs and probably some donuts. Trevor is out of town until Sunday for a photo shoot in Dallas, so she will have to be okay with a me-and-Roo welcome committee. I’m going to remind Roo not to jump on her, not to jab her fat head into Noëmi’s torso, and not to leave her shiv-bones around where we can step on them. We’ll see how it goes; I have low expectations.

I’ll be updating the blog throughout her visit, so you can see what hijinks we get up to, and if I’m lucky, I’ll convince her to write a guest post for the blog. Fingers crossed!

welcome-noemi

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