At the beginning of September, Aaron and I made a trip back to the US. It was our first time being back together in over a year. We spent two weeks there and boy were we busy! Between appointments, seeing friends and family, a baby shower, selling Aaron's truck, and a long weekend to God's Country (also known as the Upper Peninsula of Michigan), we barely had any downtime. But being back there made me realize that I miss Michigan much more than I thought.
Now, we could have planned our trip back for any time this fall really, but we chose the American holiday of Labor Day (and paid the correspondingly higher fees) for mainly one reason: my sorority and Aaron's fraternity were hosting their reunions that weekend. Mine is only held every 5 years, while Aaron's is held ever other year. I didn't want to have to wait another 5 years for the next one to roll around!
We started our trek north on Thursday afternoon. My family has a small cottage on a small lake about 40 minutes south of the Bridge (if you're from Michigan, you know which Bridge; otherwise, it's known as the Mackinac - pronounced Mack-i-naw - Bridge). We stopped there for the night to break up the 9+ hour drive from Southeast Michigan to Houghton. And of course, we had to get some of the best pizza in the state from a small restaurant in Indian River (another small town), Vivios. Honestly, pizza is one of the food we miss most in Germany. While it is available, there is very little sauce, the crust is wafer thin and crunchy, and the toppings are .... interesting (think, tuna fish). So you can bet that my pregnant self ate the crap out of that pizza. And then scarfed down not one, but two giant scoops of Mackinac Island Fudge Ice Cream (vanilla ice cream with fudge chunks and fudge and caramel swirls - yes, every bit as good as it sounds).
The next morning, we were on to Houghton! I can't tell you how happy it made me to see the Bridge, the Great Lakes, and be in the UP again. During the trip, I commented to Aaron that of all the places we've traveled, by far my favorite place is still the UP. The nature, the remoteness, the lakes, the scenery, the food, the people - all of it is just wonderful and I get giddy just thinking about that place.
Once in Houghton, we had a full list of stuff to do. We had friends to see! While Aaron's reuinion is really laid back with the only official plans being meeting at one of the local bars on Friday night and a picnic on the shore of Lake Superior on Saturday, mine has a bit more. We had check in on Friday night, then some of us made plans to go kayaking in Copper Harbor on Saturday morning, Saturday evening we had a banquet, and as a final farewell, a picnic next to the Portage (river/lake in Houghton).
The banquet Saturday night was awesome too! It's nice to get dressed up once in a while. Plus, I got to see a lot of people that I haven't seen in a while. It's so interesting to see and meet women who all joined not only the same organization, but the same chapter. It's fascinating how some things never change (like some of our beloved chapter songs!), but other things can change so much. I really wish that words could describe the feeling of sisterhood, of belonging to something bigger than yourself, to someone who has never experienced it, but they can't. At least not fully. I think this is one of the most humorous way I've heard it described:
Sisterhood is like peeing your pants. Everyone can see it, but only you can feel it's warmth.
Yup, that about sums it up!
And when ASTs get togther, there is bound to be shenanigans!
On Sunday afternoon, there was a pasty picnic for all ASTs and their families. For those who don't know, a pasty (pronounced pass-tee) is a meat, potato, carrot, and rutabaga filled hand pie. They are traditionally eaten with ketchup (if you're from the western UP) or gravy (if you're from the eastern UP). I prefer mine with ketchup. This is probably one of the foods I was looking most forward to shoving in my pie hole that weekend. They are hard to find outside of the UP, so they really are a special treat for us non-Yoopers.
Sadly, we had to leave the UP on Monday. The weather was stunning and made for a beautiful trip through the UP and along Lake Superior and the Lake Michigan (just in case you didn't know, 4 out of 5 Great Lakes prefer Michigan). The only traffic snag we hit was a backup at the Bridge. There were two cars stopped in the right lane, which pretty much blocked them for the entire length of it. In all my years going back and forth, never has it taken me longer than 15 minutes to get across. This time, it took nearly 45 minutes.
The rest of our time in Michigan was spent much as it started - errands, seeing more friends and family, trips to Walmart, celebrating Christmas early, you know, the usual. Overall, our trip back to Michigan went by all too fast. Now having a couple of 2 weeks vacations under my belt, I'm beginning to see why the Europeans scoff at shorter vacations - anything less isn't a real vacation. I can't wait until the next time we return to Michigan! When we do, there will be 3 of us!