Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

Columns

May 21, 2013

John Cannon: After 2 years, planned vacation finally taken: 05/22/13

ASHLAND — It was a trip to Minneapolis that my wife and I had been planning for more than two years. But since our journey to Minnesota was a leisurely one, we took our time for side trips: a Cincinnati Reds game; a visit to the graves of my parents, paternal grandparents and an aunt and uncle in a small cemetery near Jeffersonville, Ohio; a mini-family reunion at my niece’s home near New Holland, Ohio; a drive to Warsaw, Ind., to help my wife climb her family tree on her father’s side.

More than two years ago, my wife, who teaches English as a Second Language through the adult education program at Ashland Community and Technical College, helped her student and friend — Habab Hamid of Khartoum, Sudan — study for a test foreign-born students must pass to enroll in American universities. At the time, Habab (pronounced ha-Bob) was hoping to get accepted into a U.S. dental school. She had been a dentist in Sudan, but was not qualified to practice dentistry here.

To make a long story short, Habab passed the test with flying colors and was accepted into the College of Dentistry at the University of Minnesota. At the time, my wife promised Habab she would be at her graduation when she received her doctor of dental surgery degree. We were headed to Minneapolis to fulfill  that promise.

Now back to the trip to Minneapolis. Years of research by my mother-in-law has her well on the way to tracing her family back to Adam and Eve, but neither my wife nor her mother have much information about my wife’s father’s family. In the last year or so, my wife has tried to trace her father’s family tree with only mixed success. However, she has confirmed she had a great-grandfather who lived in Warsaw, Ind., and my wife has been communicating with a woman who volunteers for the genealogy library in the town.

Since we have to go through Indiana to get to Minneapolis, my wife figured we could spend a few hours in Warsaw on the way north. Well, Warsaw was not exactly “on the way” to Minnesota, but we did not have to drive any more than a 100 or so miles out of the way to get there. We arrived in town late Monday afternoon, May 13, got a motel room and went to look for a place to eat. When I’m on the road, I prefer eating at local establishments instead of chain restaurants. We found one called Mad Anthony’s in downtown Warsaw, which was really a bar that also served food. Our meal was great.

In fact, it was the second time that day we had dined in a bar without drinking a drop of booze. After leaving my niece’s house on Monday morning, we stopped in Eaton, Ohio, to do something I had wanted to do since I was a child. I can now say I have eaten in Eaton — and it

was good food, not particularly healthy, but good tasting.

On Tuesday morning, my wife met with the lady at the genealogy library for almost three hours while I walked around downtown Warsaw and read from a novel I was reading. Give me a good book and I can always entertain myself.  

That Tuesday marked the first time I had ever been to Wisconsin. It’s a beautiful state. I had been to Minneapolis, but since it was only to change planes, it did not count. I think you have to leave the airport to say you have been somewhere.

As soon as we arrived in Minneapolis, my wife said she wanted to take me to the Mall of America, the world’s largest.

“That’s not on my bucket list,” I told her. “Since you know I hate to shop, why do you think I would want to go to the Mall of America?”

“Just to say you have been there,” she replied.

  Well, I have been there. It was OK, but I do not want to ever go back. However, I am proud my wife and I spent nearly two hours at the mall and left without spending one penny. I did go into one store called Lids that mostly sold baseball caps. I picked up the first Reds’ cap I came to, looked at the price which was just less than $40, gasped and left the store with greater appreciation of the Reds’ hat I was wearing.

The full-size amusement park rides inside the Mall of America were fascinating and a smart idea, as summer is not long enough in Minnesota for an outdoor amusement park to turn a profit. Beyond that, I thought the best activity at the Mall of America was people watching. But then, that is what I like most about the malls in these parts.

Habab and her husband, Khalid, their daughter, Jude, and I developed a special friendship when I took her to play on the playground at a party. As we neared their residence, I feared Jude would not remember me. After all, she was only 4 then and I confess I don’t remember much about my life at 4. But I need not have worried. Jude greeted me with a hug like I had only been away for a hour instead of two years. With Habab busy preparing for her graduation and Khalid, an oncologist, busy at work, my wife and I spent a lot of time with Jude, and it was a real treat. At home, Khalid and Habab are trying to teach Jude both English and Arabic, but she attends a “Spanish immersion” kindergarten where Spanish only is spoken. Her parents hope Jude will soon be fluent in three languages. Right now she speaks excellent English and better than average Spanish but is far from being fluent in Arabic. Oh well, give her time.

Habab’s parents had flown in from Sudan for her graduation and on our first night in Minnesota, we dined on a feast of native dishes prepared by mother and daughter. I am not exactly sure what I ate, but I loved it. Two days later, Khalid treated us to a feast at a Middle Eastern restaurant serving dishes not found in any restaurant in these parts. Once again, it was delicious and because Habab gave us the leftovers, we were able to relive this dining experience in our motel  room on the way back to Ashland.

The graduation ceremony  itself was just as I expected it to be: boring.

That’s OK. I did not drive more than 2,200 miles just to attend a graduation. That was just our excuse to visit a new part of the country. I can tell you this: There is a whole lot more to Minneapolis than just a really big mall.

One final note: Before you start griping too loudly about the price of gasoline, I think you should know the price for a gallon of regular unleaded gasoline in Minneapolis Saturday was $4.399! And we think we have it bad.

JOHN CANNON can be reached at jcannon@dailyindependent.com or at (606) 326-2649.

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