Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Hosting Isabella {the Backstory from Down Under}

Back in 1990, I earned my Diploma in Education at the University of Queensland while studying abroad in Brisbane, Australia, as a Rotary Foundation Scholar.  Although I lived on campus at International House, I found a home away from home and a surrogate family through my Rotarian host, Mr. Blanch (Bob).  Bob's initial invitation for me to come have supper one Sunday afternoon with his family in Redcliffe has blossomed into a plethora of friendships spanning nearly 25 years, three generations, and crossing several continents.
Isabella's parents, before they were parents: Jim and Mickey, with puppy Doogie, Queensland, Australia, 1990

Australians are known for their hospitality, and Bob's family excelled at the art of hosting and entertaining.  When my parents and grandparents travelled to Australia to visit me during a university holiday, the Blanch family showed us the sights, fed us and helped us feel right at home down under. 

Dad, Jim, Granddad O'D(+), me, Mom, Grandma O'D, Gloria, Michele, and Michelle at a Queensland Wildlife Refuge
When Tim visited me, and indeed on the very night he proposed to me on the shores of the Brisbane River during a fireworks display, Michele Blanch was there, and it was she who took the first photo of us as a newly engaged couple.

As newlyweds Tim and I hosted Michele and a group of her friends in our little apartment on their visit to the US.  Very shortly thereafter, three of our groomsmen set off to visit Michele and company in Australia, and thus began the forming of a wide web of cross Pacific friendships.  Several trips ensued, and our connections remain intact through the decades, following our many combined moves, marriages, births, employments, and life changes.
Grandma O'D, Mom, me, Dad, and Granddad O'D(+) in Sydney, Australia, 1990
We have been blessed to host the Aussies on several occasions; our dear Aussie friends do travel and come to see us and pay us visits with some regularity.  Unlike we, who as yet have not returned to their beautiful land for a second time.  (Key word being YET.)

Michele with her parents (Isabella's grandparents) Gloria and Bob (or Ma and Pa as they are affectionately known) on their arrival at SeaTac in 1997.

Renee, Sean and their kids, with Isabella, Eric and Kristy and their son
With a long history of friendships and many shared memories of travels and visits, we were delighted to host Isabella, the next generation of Bob's clan to hit our little corner of the globe.  A recent university graduate and current seeker of employment as a Dietitian, Isabella spent three months as a camp counselor on the Atlantic, followed by series of stops in North America seeing the sights and visiting new friends, including us.

We offered Isabella a hearty must-do, must-see, and must-meet itinerary during her short stay in the Pacific Northwest.  The fun started with a stop at Sean and Renee's newly acquired and fantastically remodeled Edmonds house en route home to Bellingham from the SeaTac Airport.  Renee served up supper and Isabella had the chance to meet a gang of her Aunt Michele's friends and their growing families on a brief stop-over that allowed us to re-fuel and avoid a bit of I5's rush hour madness.

Day 1 follows.

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