When I was young, my attempts to draw flowers invariably devolved into a series of crude tulips set beneath a stylized sun.

Two decades later, my doodles show the dramatic progression of my art skills.

At the age of twenty-three, I took a job at a Christian Reformed school.

At the time, I knew nothing about the culture into which I was about to step.

Five years into my teaching career, I finally feel like less of an outsider.

It’s still a learning process, however. For one, I’ve never quite understood my colleagues’ reverence when they mention their spiritual home.

They’re not talking about the whole state, however – they’re referring to a specific region on the western side of the Lower Peninsula.

This week, my fellow English teachers and I attended a conference in this area.

Thus it was that took my first trip to the land of tulips and TULIP.

Our path there was guided by a pillar of cloud,

and we crossed a flowing river.

When we reached the Promised Land, I rushed through the gates.

During my sojourn, I had the eerie feeling that I was among these people but not of them.

Even so, they strove to make me feel included.

... usually.

Dutch people look alike. So do English types. This proved problematic.

To complicate matters, I kept recognizing people and then forgetting to greet them. From a social awkwardness perspective, this was probably the better option.

However, I was also welcomed by new friends.

Another commitment caused me to leave the conference early, and as we departed, my colleagues’ hearts were troubled.

I’m looking forward to my return – with a little penmanship, I’ll pass myself off as a native.

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