Sunday, October 19, 2003

Christmas 361 Days a Year
Yesterday, I took Mark on a field trip with the ELC students. Every year, the ELC organizes a trip to the Birch Run outlet mall, (170 stores of consumer goodness for cheap,) so that these poor, unprepared Asian students can buy winter clothing before it snows for the first time. But first, they take them to a very special place, a place you can only go in Michigan, a place of wonder and joy and glitter and lights.

They take these unsuspecting students to Bronner's Christmas Wonderland, where it is Christmas 361 days of the year, and the store holds over 4 acres of Christmas-y goodness. As Mark put it, when I finally found a place to park and we went to find the busload of students, "I think I saw a bunch of slack-jawed Asian people over there." I'm not sure that all that many students bought much stuff there, but they sure did wander around taking pictures. Pictures in front of the life-sized nativity outside, pictures in front of the fake and decorated Christmas trees inside, pictures in front of the color-coordinated ornament displays. (I didn't get to buy anything at all, because we were only there for 45 minutes, and I spent most of my time trying to find people. Unlike Mark, I actually like Christmas.)

Then we moved them into the town of Frankenmuth, where the picture-taking recommenced in front of Zehnder's, the gigantic "Bavarian" restaurant, right across the street from the Bavarian Inn, which mark the starting point for the main drag of Frankenmuth, the "Bavarian" town in central Michigan. The streets are all marked with "Str." (Stra├če) on the signs, and all distances are given in kilometers. It's really funny when you turn off the main street and see all the normal Michigan houses, and then nothing but Midwestern farm fields, but still have signs in kilometers until you are completely out of the jurisdiction of Frankenmuth.

Apparently, after lunch the students were taken to Birch Run outlet mall and turned loose for 4 hours. I would have thought 4 hours more than enough time for outlet mall shopping, even with 170 stores. According to Pat, the organizer of the trip, though, they had all complained they wouldn't have enough time. Fortunately, I drove my own car rather than going in the big bus with all of them, so Mark and I were able to be along our merry way much earlier in the afternoon.

We had to get back early anyway, because Mark's mother and step-father came over for dinner. In an interesting switch of the usual roles, Mark impressed his mother by cooking and showing off the apartment, while I somehow ended up holding forth in the verbal entertainment arena. I did have a bit of a impact on the decor and neatening before they got here, as I dug out my Peruvian table cloth and found it just big enough to cover our dinner table. Mark's mom brought us another plant, so we now have two actual growing things in our living room now, and amazingly, neither has died yet. All in all, it was a successful evening of entertainment, and a very full and interesting day.

(PS - I promise to write more this week. I had things to write last week, I just didn't actually sit down and write them.)

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