Backing up a little bit, I should mention that Rina was a bit nervous about getting through customs upon arrival. Well, see, Europeans have heard those stories about travelers who disappear without a trace and then, after a year in the Weight Loss Program of an Egyptian prison, are repatriated once it is determined that they are not the Person of Interest that the CIA had thought.

I had tried to reassure her that since she looks exactly like what she is, a secular Dutch grandmother (albeit young-looking), she was unlikely to fit any terrorist profile. Still, she was much relieved to make it through the questioning without even a threat of waterboarding or rendition. Actually, she said the most interesting part was not the questions they asked her about herself, but rather the ones they asked about me!

Well, hell, they already know it all since under Bush’s new rules they’re monitoring our library use, listening to our phone conversations, and reading our email.

That’s why I’m confessing everything in advance right here: the crime-thought, the secular humanism, the listening to NPR, the ACLU membership, the Prius-driving, the recycling … all of it.

Even taking this pic of some fence art over near Casa Guadalupe although I have deleted it from my hard drive:


Now that that’s taken care of, more highlights from Rina’s visit. Like how we’re riding down the street and I spot a mailbox. She offers to jump out and mail the letter, so I hand it over. But when she gets out, she walks all the way around the mailbox before cautiously reaching in and pulling the tray open.

But of course. She’d never seen one, and there aren’t any instructions on an American mailbox. You see your mother reaching in there and opening the tray. And then closing it and opening it again to make sure the letter slid down inside properly.

Or when I take her to In-N-Out Burger for her first real American hamburger and she perplexes the young clerk by asking for mayonnaise. Poor little thing had never seen a Dutch or Flemish person eat French fries.

Or when we go next door for Angela’s baby shower.  Rina brought from the Netherlands the muisjes for the traditional celebratory dish Beschuit met Muisjes, literally “Rusk with Baby Mice” although it sounds tastier in Dutch. OK, the little mice are sugar sprinkles colored pink or blue, as appropriate. Yep, we got that tradition from them.

Or whenever it comes time to pay at restaurants and the issue of American tipping arises. Intellectually, Europeans understand that our waiters here are not paid a living wage and are utterly dependent on tips since no service charge is added as it typically is in European countries. That’s intellectually. But emotionally, it is excruciating for her to have to see all that extra money on the table.

Then again, there is no clash at all for Rina when we go to the cosmetics department at Nordstrom’s and I discover that women at cosmetics counters speak an international language that I can only partially understand.

Rina loves boats, so we rode the ferry over to picturesque Tiburon, where I took this pic:


Surely you didn’t expect a shot of sailboats in the marina.

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