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Features

An Aussie on the loose in the USA : Gail Kelsey at a Hootenanny
By Gail Kelsey
Dec 15, 2013 - 12:30:15 AM

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With permission from the author, it is my great pleasure today to present to you the content of a 'group email' that I received from a long time Australian friend named Gail. Gail is currently in the USA and she sent all her friends this absolutely beautiful email about her trip. Amid all the other things she has learned in the USA, is how to send a group email. She has yet to learn how to put a photo in an email so she told me I could choose some of the photos from her Facebook page. Gail sent me the photograph of the Campbell family after I sent her a copy of this article and she assures me that the family is fine having their names and faces in this article. I hope American readers will enjoy this reading experience as much as Gail's friends in Australia. R.P. BenDedek Email: rpbendedek@hotmail.com


Hootenanny

I think this is Gail but I am not sure. If it is Gail then I think she needs a shave. (R.P. BD photo taken from Gail's Facebook page)
Hello Everyone. I know how to Bcc now, so this is a joint email....

Last night I had the best night of my life.. The Greenup (name of a town) Hootenanny

I had the best time. One of the nicest times of my life. I didn't stop smiling all night. Everyone was sooooo lovely to me.. Before they started the band. Jim the leader of the band announed that they had a special guest in the audience. All the way from Or-stralia. I had to stand up and he introduced me to everyone. Told them to come up and talk to me. And make me welcome etc. And they did. That has never happened to me in my life. Sooo embarrassing. But it made me feel special. And I have felt special such a lot during this adventure.

Angie took my banner she made me and Jim invited people to sign it. Different people in the band played songs for me. Songs from some of my favorite artists. I had quite a few different men come up and ask me to dance. Now, I don't really do dance. But, I had no choice. I didn't want to. But I am so glad I did. I had a ball.. Papa Smurf, as some will see on my facebook page. He was a darling. I met him just after I arrived here. On the plane I had watched a Smurf 2 movie. So as soon as I met Tom. I almost lost it. He was Papa Smurf. Old, and a snow white beard. And jolly little elf. He is a brilliant dancer. Him and his wife were dance instructors. So he took me in hand.. I had lots of dances with him. His wife was home sick.. I had strangers coming up to talk to me. But, one lady stands out. She told me her father was in Brisbane during the WW2 and how much he loved it. and how its a dream of hers to go there. I made her day, when I told her I came from Brisbane. She was so thrilled. I was to..

I was introduced to so many people. One lady. She was singing that night to. She had sung with all the old famous singers of my/our day. And she gave me one of her CD's "Gospel to Country" And she signed it for me. I was thrilled, can't wait to play it.. And Shirley, Jim's wife. Is getting me a Hootenanny Tshirt. I asked Angie if I could buy one. She didn't know if they had any left. They came out last year for an anniversary. She went and asked Shirley. And Shirley is going to get me a special Tshirt from the Hootenanny. These people are strangers. But they are all talking to me. Playing special songs for me. Making me feel part of their community.. Paul, one of the singers. He asked me "what is vegemite". He had just heard of it. I told him I bought a jar with me. So he is coming over to try it. He has the most beautiful singing voice. I might make him sing for his vegemite.. Alex, Angie's son. He plays in the band also. He plays the fiddle, guitar and sings. He doesn't know it yet. But he is going to put on a concert for me Christmas Eve.. He is a lovely kid.. Before the Hootenanny, Brad took us all out for dinner to a local pub. It was a classic. I loved it. At the end of the Hootenanny, everyone, over 100 people, formed a big circle, held hands, and all sang Silent Night. It was beautiful. You could feel the unity in the people. It was a fitting ending to a wonderful night.

I am so blessed. This trip, I may not see all the postcard sights. BUT, I am seeing way more. I am living with a wonderful American family, meeting wonderful friends, seeing how everyone lives. I think I am experiencing the real America. The part we don't see in movies, or on postcards.. I love it here. I feel so much at home. I am literally, one of the family. Experiencing the real America.

I woke up this morning, to the yard covered in three inches of snow. I looked out the window. And this beautiful white scene was waiting for me. I put on the WARM clothes, got my camera. And I was out of the house. Taking some classic photos.. The simple things we never see. Snow heavy on branches, on an old wagon wheel, all over a tractor. Wonderful sights.. Yes I know. Many of you have seen this before. But I haven't. And I loved it. My bucket list was to have a white Christmas. And that was the main reason I came all this way. But I have been blessed with so much more. I feel a deep connection with these people and this town... Last night I was at the Hootenanny. And I felt tears coming to my eyes. I just felt so blessed with this amazing opportunity that God has given to me.. I feel like I have been given a GIFT...

The crazy things foreigners do when they see snow. (R.P. BD photo taken from Gail's Facebook page)

We went to the Amish town of Arthur yesterday. That was wonderful to see. Amish people riding around in horse and buggy. Clip clopping up the roads. We had lunch at Yoders, that is an Amish restaurant.. Wonderful. True Amish food, served by Amish folk. That was the nicest friend chicken I have ever had. and a buffet of salads, and things I really don't know what they were. But I enjoyed it all.. I bought a beautiful Amish quilt in a little quilt shop.. They offered to ship it home for me. I was so pleased. It would have taken up a suitcase all on its own..

Later..... We just had Sunday morning breakfast. Biscuits (scones) with sausage gravy, I took photos of it.. Its different, interesting, I liked it. But I wouldn't make it. Nice to try though.. I hope we have it again..

Today we are going to put up the Christmas tree.. It's right in front of a window. and you will be able to see the snow outside.. How wonderful is that.. I would love to come back here in Summer. Just to see the corn growing. The green fields. And the little Hummingbirds. They sell a lot of bird houses here, with little tiny openings. These are for the Hummingbirds. The birds houses are so sweet. I have seen a few Red Cardinals now. Beautiful birds.. Hope to see more. It's easier to see them against the white snow. I am finally going to have my White Christmas.. All my life it has been something I wanted to do. I use to look at Christmas cards with snow and trees etc. And just WISH I could be there. Well, now I am.. I am so excited about it... I feel like my heart is warm and smiling.. Hard to explain. And for anyone who thinks it is stupid. Tuff, it is my dream come true...

I am even learning to eat Ketchup and Mustard. The mustard is very mild. Ketchup is a bit stronger in flavor than tomato sauce. I might bring a bottle home.. I am bringing home different packaged foods.. They have a chocolate jello pie fill here. Yummmm I bought a few packets of that. Food is very different to home. Some I like, some, I don't. But I enjoying trying it all. EXCEPT Brads oyster dressing. GROSS. It was all I could do not to throw up. Brad just laughed at me.. They use tinned oysters here :O( This is the very heart of USA here. So fresh seafood isn't really readily available..

I love my family here. Last night, so many people came up to me. And said "You could not have chosen a better family to stay with". And I know they are right. Even before I came here, to stay with strangers. I KNEW I was going to be fine. I knew it deep within me. And Angie knew I was going to fit in there. I honestly believe that God reached out His arms out across the world. And chose two people who He knew would just fit... I feel like family here. I just fit in. I get up and make a cup of tea. What ever I want. And I don't feel strange about it.. I feel like I just belong here enough to do what I like. And know no one is going to think I am over stepping for a "visitor"... I don't normally relax at someones place. But here I do. I guess God knew I would...

From left is Alex Campbell, me (Gail Kelsey), Angie Campbell and Brad Campbell. They are the family I am living with in Charleston, Illinois.

My trip over was very long. So pleased I stopped over in Korea for the night. Even if they don't have tea making facilities in the room, or provide breakfast. But I had two muslie bars in my purse. Had them with a bottle of water. At least they provided them.. I went to the airport early. Found a place that had nice salad sandwiches, and got that and a cup of tea. Had to ask for milk to go in it. But that was fine.. I so enjoyed that breakfast... It was 12 and half hours to Chicago. Was totally exhausted by the time I got there. Thank goodness for the small tv's on the back of each seat. And for sleeping tablets.. Angie, Erin her daughter and Sydney her grandaughter were right there to meet me.. Little Sydney had a helium balloon for me, with welcome on it. She isn't three yet. And tried to say "Welcome to America Gail".. We went to the car, and, silly me, I went to get into the drivers seat. Angie said "I think I will drive".. I felt stupid, but she understood they drive on the wrong side of the road here. That has been interesting for me to. Sometimes I freak, when I see a car coming right "at us", just to have it pass on the left. But occasionally I still go to get in the wrong side of the car..

JUST TO HAND: Well I just had the best morning. We came out and there was about five inches of snow over everything. It was the most beautiful sight ever. I naturally put on my jacket, took my camera, and went exploring. I took so many pictures of snow on all sorts of things. Alex, Angie and I made a big snowman.. It was easier than I thought. But I was still puffing and panting from the effort and the cold. It was snowing the whole time. We got him made. Put a hat and scarf on him. Charcoal for eyes and buttons. A pine cone for his mouth. And stick for his nose. And branches for his arms.. He looks beautiful. I named the snowman Fredrick.
We have had a few language barriers. Yes, they speak English. But American English. The other night. Angie started to wash the dishes. I went up and said "I will wash up". She said yes, alright, and continued to do the dishes. I said it again "I will wash up". She looked at me strange, and said "Ok, that's fine" and kept washing up. I said it again. By this time. She realised I meant something else. And said "Now, what do you mean by "wash up". I said to wash the dishes. She laughed. To her, to wash up means to go and wash your hands. We had a laugh, and sorted that out. I did the dishes, and sent of her to do something else.. We have had a few of those moments. Some times with other folk. I find myself just smiling and agreeing. I have no idea what they are saying. Their accents are just so strong. Especially with the real country folk.. wonderful people. All have made me so welcome. I almost feel "important". I have been the center of attention with so many things. I am not a center of attention person. So I find it a bit hard at times. But I love it. People are so nice to me..

One of the papers has contacted Angie. They are excited that an Or-stralian is visiting they little country town. This isn't a tourist area at all. so she wants to take Angie and me out for lunch. And interview us about how we met, etc. Take photos and put them in the Sunday paper.. She has emailed a list of questions already for me to answer.. Not sure when that is happening now. Angie has work for a few days.. But it will happen.. I am excited to be here. But other people are excited to. Exited for me to see their country. Amazed that I want to see snow. They hate it. And don't want it. But they want it now, for me.. I feel so blessed to be here.. Angie has been putting a lot of posts of my adventures, on her Facebook page. And the comments coming back are so wonderful. People are actually interested in what I am experiencing here. Sending their regards etc to me. For the first time in my life. I feel sort of "important"... New feeling for me..

Angie has taken me to Taco Bell, twice, Steak and Shake, Starbucks, Walmart, (I love Walmart) If they don't sell it there, you don't need it.. Brad has taken me to a big rural barn. Called Rural King. WOW, I love it.. Guns, amunitions and other weapons are just sold here. Not even over the counter. It's like a Kmart, all on shelves.. I bought some beautiful cards there to. They have everything. Its like a blokes1 Kmart...

I am yet to try beef jerky. Brad has a smoker to. He makes his own. He has a couple of deer roasts here. He is going to cut it up and jerky it.. Not sure if that will happen while I am here. I don't think jerky is something I would "enjoy" but I am happy to try it. Talking of trying it. Brad and Angie drink BLACK coffee. blahhh. But I tried it. At least I tried it. Not again. I half fill the mug with their coffee, and fill the rest with milk. Then microwave it. It's quite nice. But doesn't really agree with my tummy.. I drink it, but pay the price later. Won't go into details...

Even the little dog here is beautiful. She is half Labrador and half Dashund. I know, sounds strange. But she is so lovely. Like a very minature Labrador, but pitch black. The prettiest little face.. Brad is worried I will try to take her home in my suitcase. If I could, I would.. Speaking of suitcase. I have had to get another one to bring home all my "purchases".. Angie had a few spare, and was kind enough to give me one.. It will cost a lot to take home. But my purchases are my memories. And most of my purchases are Christmas ornaments. They are sooooooo cheap here. and way way nicer than what we have there. I even went to a shop called Twice As Nice. It a beautiful second hand shop. Everything is sold on commission to the original owners. Only good things sold there. And on Saturday, they had 50% off all Christmas ornaments. Beautiful ornaments. So, I bought some, well, more than some. I bought a LOT... I will give half to Jacinta, and keep half. She will inherit all my Christmas ornaments anyway.. Those ornaments are her memories to. There is another story in there. But I won't go into those details.. Ask me later if you really want to know..

Not sure who the guy in the photo is but VIP beside him is my friend Gail.(R.P. BD photo taken from Gail's Facebook page)

I know this is a long email. But I have so much to tell. Do you get the message that I am thoroughly enjoying myself here..

Brad and Angie want to take me down to Florida between Christmas and New Year. Its a bit up in the air at the moment. If they do, great. If not. I love it here anyway. I didn't pack any shorts or swimmers though. Really didn't think I would need them with all this snow.. But I am sure I can buy some there. Everything is so cheap here. Half to a quarter less than we pay in Aust. I am getting twice the bang for my buck here... AND after Christmas, Walmart has all their Christmas stuff quarter the price. YES!!!!! So Angie and I are off shopping again then :O) I just love shopping here. Sears, Maceys, JC Penny's. A lot of you will remember our old Penny's in Queen Street, Many YEARS AGO..

I have had my photo taken so many times now. I hate getting my photo taken. I take such a UGLY photo. But, too bad. I am doing it now. And so many are on Facebook now.. I just have to deal with bad photos of me.. As most of them are. Knock the pride out of me a bit...

OK, that is it for me today. the tree is up. Waiting for Alex's girlfriend to come and help decorate. He doesn't know she is coming. She is in the National Guard. That is our Army Reserve. She was away doing guard stuff this weeks. But is coming home early, to help decorate the tree and have dinner. But Alex doesn't know that. it is a surprise for him.. He asked earlier today if we could wait a few days to decorate the tree, so Kirsty could be here to help. Angie said "no". He was disappointed, but will be thrilled when she drives in. And that is why he got told no..

Now this really is me for this email...
Love you all, take care.
Love,
Gail..

PS I am not going to proof read this. So excuse all the mistakes. And I don't know how to use spell check on this computer programme. So, take it as it is...

1 "Bloke" is the real Aussie language for 'man' or guy. Australia used to be full of blokes and sheilas but today for some reason it's full of men and women.

Some Late Comments to the Editor:

There you go Gail. A 'n-o-r-m-a-l' photograph of you so no one will think you are a 'dork'. Now you will have to explain what a 'dork' is.
Hi, Is it toooooo late to include a normal photo of me in that article. Like my facebook profile... So people don't think I am a total dork with a beard....If possible. PLEASE.. Since when is standing next to Abraham Lincoln and getting your photo taken 'normal'. Really. Who else do you know who has had a photo taken with that Gentlemen....

My holiday is now half way through. I just love it here so much. Sorry, but I am not in a hurry to come home. The Christmas tree is up, right in front of a window. And you can see all the snow in the background, with snow all over the trees outside. It is a picture. Like something you see on a Christmas card. And I am now in that Christmas card. All my life I have wanted to experience what I have this morning.. God had to reach out across the oceans to find the person who could make it happen.. And he couldn't have chosen a more wonderful family than "The Campbells"... I feel so blessed to have this six weeks here...

I had a new experience today. I was pushing a shopping trolley in an inch of snow. Its not a very easy thing to do.. As I was doing it, I thought to myself "This is different, something I will never have to do at home"..

Here, they don't have newsagents. When I asked Angie "Where is the local newsagent", she looked at me as if I was talking a foreign language. They don't have newsagents here. She didn't know what a "newsagent" was. Have you ever had to explain what a newsagent IS? They just don't exist. Strange place in some ways.


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