Saturday, June 8, 2013

A Small World

Have you heard people say, “It's a small world!”? We have had many “small world” experiences through the years, but there is one that takes the cake!

While we were in language school in France for eleven months, we got to do some traveling to other countries in Europe during our breaks. We would have six weeks of intense study followed by a two-week break. The school recommended that we not spend the breaks studying; our brains needed a rest!

When the first break came around, we did not go anywhere out of town because we did not have a vehicle. Shortly after that, we were able to get a little Peugeot 205. My husband named her “Eleanor.” We got to go a lot of places in good old Eleanor. We had missionary friends in Germany. We went to visit them on the next break that we had.

During one of our breaks, my sister Emily came for a visit. She arrived just before our exam week. We were able to take a couple days off to go to Switzerland to meet up with my dad's parents and my dad's brother and his wife. My grandparents immigrated from Holland to America in 1949. They had come to visit relatives in Holland. It worked out for us to meet them in Switzerland.

Meeting up with them was interesting. We had printed out a map; we were supposed to meet them in Matten, Switzerland. Around 10:00 P.M., we thought we had arrived at our final destination. We were at the end of the road at the top of a mountain. We found the restaurant that they had told us to look for; the only problem was if we turned where they told us to turn, we would drive off the side of the mountain. Joe was talking to the lady from the bed and breakfast on the phone; she was speaking in broken Enlgish. Joe accidentally threw a French word in there. She said in French, “You speak French?! Well then,...” She took off talking in French. We soon found out that there are three Mattens in Switzerland, and we were at the wrong Matten! We did get to see some beautiful scenery though! The Matten where we should have been was two hours away from where we were; it did not look that far on the map; the only small obstacle was the Swiss Alps!

The next day, my grandparents (Opa and Oma) wanted to take a train up a mountain. Joe had talked to the lady at the bed and breakfast and asked her where the best place to go would be. She recommended that we go to Jungfrau. So, we headed that way. My aunt and uncle had my grandparents in their rental vehicle, and we were following in Eleanor. As we were driving along, there were two people on the side of the road who were hiking; they had walking sticks in hand. As my uncle's vehicle passed by them, they started waving their walking sticks in the air. Emily and I looked at the people who were waving their walking sticks. Emily said, “I think that is Oma's brother and his wife.” Oma's siblings (who all still live in Holland) had come to America to visit at different times. We had met some of them. We drove a little farther, and my uncle turned around. So, we followed him. He accidentally passed the place where the people were standing. So, we pulled up next to them first. Emily and I were both still discussing if it might be Oma's brother. We were not bold enough to get out of the car and ask. My husband has never met a stranger. So, Joe got out of the vehicle and asked them if they knew Tony Van Manen (Opa's name). They did not speak much English at all, and they did not understand his Texas accent. They pointed, and in very broken English said, “The town is that way.” Joe tried again. He said Opa's name like Opa would say it. When they understood that he was saying “Tony Van Manen,” they started talking in rapid-fire Dutch. At that point, Emily and I stepped out of the car. As soon as the aunt saw me, she said, “Laura!” It had been at least ten years since we had seen them. They just happened to be vacationing in Switzerland in the same area where we were. What a small world!

If you have a “small world” experience that you would like to share with us, please e-mail it to me at Please include the name of each family member, your field of service, and a picture of your family if possible.

Until next week, keep your sunny side up!

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