Monday, September 27, 2010


Yesterday the Box barreled down I-81 to the Newville exit on our way to the Laurel Lake area of Pine Grove Furnace State Park. We drove the eight miles from the exit to the park, uphill all the way, the Box purring effortlessly under the load of two-liter sodas and bags of ice.

We had a delightful time with Australian, French, and Norwegian families and their American community sponsors and enjoyed un pique-nique. 

The International Fellows are all Lt. Colonels or Colonels in their respective armed forces and come from around the world to study at the U.S. Army War College in Carlisle, Pa. The community sponsors help them to adjust to living in the United States and show them a little bit of the "American way of life." It's quite a wonderful experience in international friendship.

When we pulled up at the pavilion near Laurel Lake, several of the families were already there and introducing themselves to each other. We joined them and then started to prepare the tables. I had bought plastic table coverings and utensils at Neiman-Marcus -- er, I mean the Dollar Store -- and we covered the tables. We placed our cooler, filled with just about every fizzy drink known to man, as well as water and lemonade, on the bench of the dessert table (for which each family had brought a contribution).

Have you ever seen a swarm of locusts? Then you can imagine what it looked like when the kids saw the drinks and the desserts. They surrounded the table and tried all of the goodies, then mixed up potent cocktails of Coke-orange soda-ginger ale, and others defying description. It was amusing to watch. Dessert first! What a crazy idea -- and one that should be universally adopted.

Meanwhile the adults laid out their meals and began to enjoy them and the accompanying conversation. Then they had dessert!

I enjoyed speaking with the Norwegian IF, Odin, noting that of all the ethnic groups in Pennsylvania, there did not seem to be many Norwegians. I recalled, though, that there was a state historical marker about the Norwegian Ole Bull, and there was a state park named after him. According to the state park's Web site:

"Ole Bull State Park is named for Ole Bornemann Bull, the famous Norwegian violinist who toured the United States in the 1850s. In 1852, Ole Bull purchased a large tract of land in Potter County and attempted to develop a series of Norwegian settlements. He began construction of a 'home' at what now is called Ole Bull Vista. He never finished this large, wooden cabin. After a year of severe hardships, the majority of the colony disbanded and moved west into Michigan and Wisconsin."

Elsewhere, the kids were roaming the beach, toes in the water, sand on their soles, under the watchful eyes of their parents. Soon the adults were joining them in a game of (one might say "modified") football. Even the youngest children participated, along with the some of the dads and one of the moms.

As the sun began to set, the kids were treated to a game of Bingo, organized by Edie, sponsor of the Dutch family who were unable to be present. Edie's a natural with organizing events and making them fun. The kids enjoyed the game and the prizes they won.

Meanwhile, the two youngest French kids showed off their expertise in bubble blowing. They should take their show on the road -- they're practically professional! Their dad showed them how to make really big ones!

Finally the time came for farewells, and we all packed up and headed for home, looking forward to the next opportunity to meet. This time the Box nearly took flight as we cruised down the mountain, unencumbered by sodas and ice.

The kids check out the desserts.

The Norwegian family with their sponsors.

Everyone loves brownies!

Our French family rests after football.

One of the Norwegian kids.

Elizabeth  and her mom Sarah (from Australia)
blow some bubbles with the French kids.

Getting to know each other.

The Norwegian dad helps his kids with Bingo.

Raphael demonstrates the French way to blow "bulles."

Elizabeth successfully hides behind a tree.

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