With the end of our third overseas Foreign Service tour rapidly approaching, we took one last trip before the final push to tie up loose ends at work, pack up the house, and bid adieu to Rwanda for the foreseeable future. Rather than staying on the continent, however, we went to Europe, spending two weeks in the Netherlands, Belgium, and Luxembourg with a large contingent of friends from various epochs of our lives.
We stayed with a Spanish friend in Amsterdam, caught up with S’s Dutch foreign exchange student, and in The Hague visited a Dutch/American couple D has known since high school. A German friend whom we had met in Kenya and who now lives in Tunis spent several days with us in the Ardennes, and an American friend from D’s study abroad days took the train from his home in the UK to meet us in Bruges. An Austrian friend from graduate school and his fiancée traveled from Vienna to meet us for a weekend tour of Luxembourg. And D drove two hours from Dinant (Belgium) to Lille (France) to meet another high school-era friend, who now lives in Algiers but happened to be in Paris for a week, for drinks and dinner.
The impetus for this crazy voyage had been S’s work trip to Washington, which would have required a stopover in Amsterdam. The trip got cancelled, but by then D had already purchased tickets for himself and Munchkin and was employing a full court press to rope as many of our friends into the itinerary as possible.
We did some sightseeing, of course. Neither of us had visited Belgium or Luxembourg previously, and unlike S, who had been to the Netherlands on several occasions, D had only ever spent half a day there prior to this trip.
But mostly this vacation was about reconnecting with friends whom we are unlikely to see again soon – a farewell trip of sorts to say goodbye to this side of the world before we return to the United States. In fact, some of the fondest memories we formed during these travels are of our friends (and their kids) playing with our kids and sharing a bit of their lives with us.