Monday, August 18, 2008

Parlez-vous Olympics?!

In my ongoing quest to convince you all just how hip, cool, and cosmopolitan we are I just have to tell you that we had Chinese visitors this weekend. And we have my in-laws to thank for it.

I've probably mentioned before that my father-in-law is a researcher in fluid power. His university has a cooperation program with a university in China, through which he has become good friends with one of the researchers there. He always takes good care of my in-laws whenever they visit China, and he always visits them when he is in Finland. The man has practically become family.

He and his family are on a vacation in the U.S., and we happen to be more or less on their way. I'm not sure whose idea it was, but they decided to stop in and visit us yesterday. And considering how well they treat my wife's parents, we wouldn't settle for them getting a hotel. It would have been a blight on the family honor, so to speak.

They speak English very well, so we had a great time discussing cultures, their impressions of America, and so on. Our kids were over the moon with the whole situation (especially the Beijing 2008 Olympics caps they brought them), and their son was at least a very good sport about letting our kids show off for him. And our pets got a thorough petting. After we put our kids to bed I got to give them the "Two-hour Tour" of our city, which they seemed to appreciate.

Our friend confirmed something I've long suspected: my father-in-law is the hydraulics research field's equivalent of a rock star. This concept is understandably a bit hard for my wife to reconcile. Heck, it's even an odd thought for me with my family-by-marriage perspective. One of the top minds in hydraulics gives my children horsey-rides, likes watching the NBA, and eats hamburgers when his wife isn't around to stop him.

My side of the family is a bit more obscure. My father ran the equipment room for the local university P.E. department, and cleaned church buildings part-time. But I've seen his face during family gatherings as he watched his large, noisy muddle of kids, grand-kids, and great-grand-kids. I don't think he would have traded places with my father-in-law for anything.

I mention all of this not to compare fathers, necessarily, or to defend one over the other. Mostly I think I'm just pointing out that I've got an interesting life. Marriage is a portal into a whole different world you never would have known existed otherwise. I don't need to choose one world over the other. I'm free to explore both.

What a trip.

Our family friends are on their way to the coast today. They left us with a standing invitation to China. That would be an incredible opportunity, and with my life the way it is, I'm learning to never say never on things like this.

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